It’s ok to sleep

We recently went to Darwin to visit Tim’s youngest brother and his wife (YAY). We came into this trip off the back of a number of unusually full weeks and Tim and I were both exhausted and recovering from illness.

Whilst there we had the opportunity to attend their once a month church gathering. We arrived 30 minutes early to take a look around and observe Mark and Christine in their ‘natural environment’. My darling Bella decided to throw a stellar tantrum about 3 minutes after the service officially started, complete with body thrashing, screaming and hitting. It really was rather impressive, so I’ll give her points for that. After removing ourselves from the main hall, I tried all my (patient) mum techniques and finally managed to calm her down. We rejoined the rest of humanity and I placed Tim in charge of both my little cherubs. I tried to engage in worship, but seriously, I had nothing. As I looked around the room at people’s heartfelt ‘worship’ faces, I couldn’t help but be amazed that they had any energy left to stand, let alone sing. I looked up at the lyrics of the song on the big screen and read:

“All the Sons and Daughters,

Wake up from your sleep.”

And man, all honestly, I just wanted to punch someone in the head. Wake up! You’ve got to be kidding me, I’m a working mum with small kids, I’m always awake. Goodness me, how much more am I meant to be giving? I exhaustedly told God that I didn’t want to wake up, I actually just wanted to sleep.

You know what I heard Him say?

He said, “That’s ok Babe. It’s ok to sleep, you’re exhausted.”

Phew.

When I heard Him say that, I felt so much release. He gave me permission to feel tired without guilt. I realised that He does see me in my current season and instead of being disappointed in me, He is cheering me on. I felt so much liberation that I packed up my two tired girls in the van and drove them home to sleep and rest.

It’s funny how I sometimes slip back into performance with God instead of authentic relationship. Sometimes, I still get caught up in comparison, not just with others, but also with my past seasons that I lock myself in a prison of self-criticism.

What I’m continuing to learn in this season is the fine art of balance and acceptance. Acceptance of myself and how I function as a mum, friend, employee, wife, daughter and sister. Sometimes I can’t give what I want and I have much less to offer than I have been able to in past, but that doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. Let me repeat… it doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. If my capacity is less than someone else’s, that doesn’t mean I’m not living a full life. I am not less, I am me.

And so, there may have been other mums in that church hall with screaming kids hanging off their arms, able to sing that song with all their heart and that’s great. I can cheer them on without feeling competitive or bitter and I hope that they can cheer me on, (whilst I sleep) without judgment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a kid-free day, so I’m going to hang out the washing, make myself a second coffee and read my latest lighthearted acquisition “That Hathaway Girl”.

Love Jess xxoo

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To the Christian Couple trying to fall pregnant

To the Christian Couple trying to fall pregnant,

I have been thinking a lot about you the last few weeks. You are on my mind and I can’t shake you no matter how much I try. Some of you I know personally, while others I wouldn’t know you if you were sitting next to me right now. Regardless, I wanted to take a few moments and type these words to you, because what you are going through is painful, so incredibly painful and usually hidden.

Psalm 56 v 8
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

If I could sit and have a beverage with you, I would look you in the eye and tell you that you aren’t alone. I know it feels like it, believe me, I know it does. It may seem like others around you are falling pregnant with not a care in the world and you feel you’re the only one’s struggling… but you aren’t. For some reason, knowing that other Christians are going through or have gone through a similar struggle can make you feel less isolated. I say this not to take away from your unique experience, but to encourage you and remind you that your thoughts, questions, doubts, victories and triumphs are perhaps similar to what others have felt.

Psalm 31 v 7
I am overcome with joy because of Your unfailing love, for You have seen my troubles, and You care about the anguish of my soul.

Although some of your closest friends may not see your pain… I see you in my mind’s eye. I acknowledge this difficult season with its’ faith filled highs and the hopeless lows. I understand the courage you draw upon when you celebrate other people’s victories and the anguish in your heart when you see that photo on social media or glossy picture in a catalog. I can relate to the faith in your heart when you respond to an alter-call and the frustration when someone says something insensitive. Sometimes you have grace and things don’t bother you, while other times you want to put your fingers in your ears to block out the noise. It is difficult. Plus, those ever-changing thoughts and emotions can really throw you can’t they? Up and down and round and round. Then, there are the faith-based questions, medical decisions and ethical considerations that can keep you up at night! You are really doing so well. No, really you are. Be encouraged.

Psalm 9 v 9-10
The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you.

I am aware that your stories are all different and so will the outcome. I sincerely pray that your dearest dreams will be realized, and yet I know how hard it is to believe that at times. I don’t pretend to have answers for your situation; I only want to let you know that you aren’t forgotten. You aren’t abandoned and your journey is important, so important that God keeps bringing you to my mind. Even if you don’t tell anyone about this season, I am praying for you and for the child or children you want to have.

All my love

Jess xxoo

Enjoier (to give joy to)

When was the last time you deliberately did something you enjoyed? It doesn’t matter if it’s cliché or something entirely unique, as long as it fills up your joy tank, it’s valid. Is it having a large group of people over for lunch? Could it be reading a new book on your bed? Would it involve lots of people and noise and energy or quiet and stillness and peace?

Enjoy (a verb).

Originates from Middle English and a stem of Old French > From the Middle English word enjoyen, which means ‘to make joyful’. > Old French ‘enjoier’, meaning ‘to give joy to’.

Low mood can be a sneaky thing and by sneaky I mean it can lead to depression. At the end of last year I had a downer, constantly in Mum-mode and managing the household. Never feeling like ‘me’, but just the mum-version of me. In short, I was no longer having any fun and was starting to lose sight of who I was. Little moments of joy would pass me by without me even noticing and my days were becoming full of to-do-lists and high expectations. And so, after some good self-reflection and advice, I decided it was time for more joy.

One of my top enjoyen tricks at the moment is to blast out some fun music and dance around my house with my little people in tow. Nothing changes the atmosphere like a playlist of songs that have your little people jumping around and giggling with you. A few little spins through the air and some quick leaps around the dinning room table just seem to help me shake off my tendency to be caught up in ‘adulting’.

Adulting (a verb).

To do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.

Coming off the back of a season of low mood, I have been thinking a fair bit about joy and ways to cultivate it. I think one of the best ways, is to be aware of it and make it something you notice within yourself. The little joy moments within your day can make a world of difference, if you embrace them. Often though, I’m too busy adulting (or parenting) to notice and I need to deliberately set time aside every few days and do something I love. Scheduling a weekly ‘joy session’ is a great place to start if you’ve stopped being able to recognise it in your daily life.

From my experience, deliberately making time for joy and silly fun is important in our crazy, over-connected culture. The more I am able to bring joy into my life, the more joy I can see. The more I see, the more I treasure and embrace.

And so, let us embrace the silly, fun, delightful, surprising and awkward moments of life. Let’s take a moment to look at the beautiful flower on the tree you walk past every day. Let’s have a laugh when someone does a fart during dinner – the sound of a trumpet coming out of a bottom, what’s not to laugh at? Let’s run a bath and read a book. Have dinner with a close friend. Have dinner with 20 strangers. Go for a bush walk. Bake something new. Colour in that drawing. Sip that coffee while looking at the view. Paint a fence. Paint your hand. Spend a morning in the garden. Spend a morning in the surf. Go on a date. Watch a movie. Go on a holiday. Laugh at the spilt drink. See that new exhibition. Go to that new shop you saw the other day. Take a language class. Watch a bird play in the bird bath. Giggle at a clever quote. Sing loudly in the car. Start a blog*…

Whatever the things are that bring you joy, join me and deliberately do at least three of them this week. Sure, life can be difficult and boring at times, but if we can cultivate joy while doing it, then we’re onto something.

Love Jess xxoo

*(Oh that was for someone specific, I don’t know who you are, but you do. Now get on it and give it a go! Apparently it’ll bring you a lot of joy)

A victory on a hard day

Disclaimer: This little blog is for me – I am celebrating a seemingly small victory 🙂

I had one of those days where my little people were either, fighting, crying or touching me. It was difficult and long. I lost my cool more than once and when Tim finally got home I went and had a looooooooong shower.

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Usually on these days, while I am struggling to keep my sanity, an unhealthy critical voice joins the downward spiral. The negative thoughts about who I am as a mother, a wife and a person overwhelm me and I feel bad about feeling bad. Everything I’m not doing or not doing well is amplified and I feel like a failure.

But today, today I had a little victory – I had self-compassion. Even as I shut myself in my bedroom saying a desperate prayer for help, I didn’t feel bad. Why? Because jeepers being a parent is hard. I saw today for what it was… a parenting nightmare and I took it easy on myself for once. I didn’t think about how other people would handle it, I didn’t get depressed when I saw all dirt on the floor or the washing that needed to be put away. I didn’t feel like a failure because my kids were driving me up the wall. I didn’t think about all the mothers in Syria or any of the other painful comparisons that I’m usually unable to block out. YAY! This is a big thing for me, so join me by lighting a New Years sparkler and pulling on a party-popper as I celebrate this little triumph.

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Next time I may or may not be able to do the same, but that’s ok. I will celebrate today! Hi, my name is Jess and I survived this day by using self-compassion…

… and a whole lot of Justin Bieber tunes.
(Yes, Justin Bieber, I love that kid)

Love Jess xxoo

When Faith and Hope run out

I have a friend my age that has a chronic illness. I have a friend who is in her late thirties and longs to find a life companion. I know someone who suffers through the heartbreaking disappointments of wanting to fall pregnant. I know others who struggle through the dark complexity of mental health issues. As a “person of faith” aka a Jesus-lover, sometimes I have great faith. Faith so strong that I know in my very soul that something good is going to happen; be it a physical healing, a new job or a mended relationship. Other times, I have hope. Hope in people, hope for a fresh start, or hope that this time I’ll see my prayers answered. And then, and then my dear friends… there are times when my faith and hope have depleted and it’s too painful to even dare to pick them up. I feel faithless and hopeless, with no answers and no end in sight. My heart is downcast.

There are some incredible commentaries on 1 Corinthians 13, but recently I have been thinking about verse 13 in particular:

 Three things will last forever
— faith, hope, and love —
and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

Three things will last forever – it’s an interesting notion, especially when at times it feels like those exact three things have faded from my heart. However, if they do in fact last forever like the verse says, then they must be intricately linked. Therefore, if the greatest one is said to be love, surely it’s something I should take note of and turn to in a personal crisis. Personally, when I spend time receiving love from God, I’m surprised by the way hope finds its way back into my heart. Then, after a little while (and even more love), hope builds and eventually produces embers that ignite into faith.

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Many of you know my journey with pregnancy and some of you don’t. In a nutshell it took 3 and a half years, one miscarriage, many, many blood tests and doctors visits to see our first child into the world. During this journey, some months I would be full of faith. I would believe with all my heart that this time was ‘the month’ so much so that I would go out and buy nappies as a ‘step of faith’. Some months I would have hope, hope that held onto promises in God’s word and prophecies that people had given me. Other months, I had nothing except my knowledge that God loved me and that He was holding me through my pain. I didn’t have faith and I couldn’t find hope, so I would just tell God that I had nothing that month and knew that others around me would have to do it on my behalf.

If you don’t have faith for a personal miracle and can’t find hope that your situation will ever change, let me encourage you to let go of everything else and just let yourself be loved. As Christians often say ‘camp out in love’. This means that you don’t have to force your faith or hope. Just close your eyes and ask Father God to show you His love. Remember, don’t force yourself to feel something you don’t, simply ask to see His heart, then, ask again the next day and the next day and the next day. You’ll never be disappointed focusing on that – camping there. You can always find rest by being loved by the best Father that ever was. I can promise you, that as you get a greater revelation of His indescribable love, hope will inevitably come and eventually, so will faith.

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Allow me to interrupt this nice warm fuzzy moment… couldn’t that be overly simplifying things? What about people in deep depression who can’t feel any love? What about people who don’t see a physically healing and no longer have faith for one? Ok, let’s go deeper…

I’ve have already alluded to it, but let me give you my thoughts about how this can work. When you can’t feel love, experience hope and find faith, in steps what the bible calls “The Bride of Christ” – which basically means other Jesus followers. When I’m authentic with other Jesus-lovers about what’s in my heart, they can help me out when I lack something. No love? Boom, they can pray about the barriers that are keeping me from feeling love. No hope? They can have hope on my behalf that things will be brighter and can encourage me on the journey. And lastly, if I’m lacking faith, I can lean on theirs. Of course it works both ways – even if you don’t have faith, hope and love in your own life and circumstances, it’s surprising how sometimes you find it for someone else.

I see this constantly in my own life, not only with my husband, but also in my relationships with others like my sister; always patient, always kind, not jealous or rude or proud. They love me in all my seasons, inspire hope when things feel hopeless and stir up faith. Deeply trusting and authentic relationships built on unconditional love are a beautiful gift. Plus, these are earthly relationships with limits on the amount of time and energy we can offer each other. This leads me to ponder how much more does God want to give us? We may not see answers to every prayer, but I believe we can always experience love. If I am lacking faith, hope or love, I can allow my life-affirming friends to intercede on my behalf to a willing God. I believe God is a good God, so breakthrough will inevitably come and love will be released.

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God’s love never fails and I know this to be true. How do I know this? Because I have spent a lot of time being loved by Him when my hope and faith had faded. So, I say it again, if all else fails, camp out in love; it really is the greatest.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13 (NLT)

 Love Jess xxoo

The Dark Secrets Hidden in your Tea: A Twinings Investigation

Although I’m usually a coffee person, I have recently increased my tea intake and trying new blends. As with most thing, this led me on an ethical journey to discover the story behind the brands I’m drinking. This is what I found out about one popular company Twinings & Co.

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The good ol’ Twinings & Co company sells Twinings of London, a large range of delicious teas for around $2.70 AUS in a pack of 10. Every now and then they have a special of $0.99 AUS and we all rejoice… but my friends there is a reason why you can buy tea for this price. The reports from 2015 and 2016 are not good:

  • 2015, BBC investigation found workers were paid so little they lived in horrible conditions, suffering from malnutrition and illness. Workers were also exposed to chemicals with no health and safety standards. On some estates, it was found that child labour was being used.
  • 2015, Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare scored Twinings a tier 6 on their farm animal welfare policies and practices. Tier 6 is the worst score a company can receive.
  • 2016, Newsweek Green Ranking of 34.2 out of 100 when measured against 8 indicators: energy, greenhouse gas, water, waste, fines and penalties, relating executive pay to sustainability targets, board oversight of environmental issues and external audits.
  • 2016, Rank a Brand (for use of cotton) scored Twinings 2 out of 19.5, making it one of the lowest performing companies assessed.
  • 2016, Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Scorecard ranked this company equal last on their agriculture sourcing policies with a score of 36%
  • 2016, given an ethical rating of F from Shop Ethical (the lowest possible score)

However, don’t throw out your tea bags yet, there are some great alternatives out there. Yes, they are more expensive, but the thought that my tea is keeping someone else’s child in forced labour horrifies me. I will not support modern-day slavery once I’m aware of what’s happening.

Let me offer three alternatives:

Peppermint Tea: English Tea Shop

  • 100% Fair-trade certified – sometimes Brands use a percentage of fair-trade products so they can put the logo on their packaging, this one is 100% fair-trade
  • NON GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) project verified nongmoproject.org
  • Certified Organic – All agricultural ingredients are organically grown and processed.

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Camomile and mint: Planet Organic

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Camomile and Apple alternative: Pukka Planet

  • 100% Fair-trade certified
  • Certified Organic – All agricultural ingredients are organically grown and processed.
  • Environmentally friendly packaging including envelopes.

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I hope this blog has opened your eyes a little to how YOU can fight against modern slavery and help change the environment. Another popular brand to stay well away from is Tetley as it also ranks an ‘F’ on the Shop Ethical website. Bushells, Liptons and T2 all receive a ‘C ‘rating, so they pass, but it’s up to you to decide what you believe is acceptable.

I personally don’t want to be so removed from the production of the what I eat and drink (and wear) that I embrace a consumerist attitude towards my planet’s resources that keeps other in bondage and negatively impacts on future generations. The good news is that with tea, there are a number of positive brands including: Lotus Peak, Nature’s Cuppa, Madura, Dilmah and Nerada. So, the power is in your wallet and in your cup.
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Yes, the issue of ethical consumption can be a bit of a rabbit warren, but if you are interested in it, start somewhere. Why not start with your tea and help someone feed their family?

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Love Jess xxoo

PS – I wrote this while drinking my English Tea Shop peppermint tea and it was delicious!

References:

The Bitter Story behind the UK’s national Drink

The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare – 2015 Report

Newsweek Green Ratings – 2016

Rank a Brand – Top brands failing on Cotton Sustainability

Oxfam, Behind the Brands April 2016 Company Scorecard

Into the pit and back again – A story about depression

I sat on the floor in the kitchen in front of a clean dishwasher that needed to be emptied. After angrily telling Tim to “leave me alone”, tears ran down my face and all I wanted to do was pick up all those clean dishes and smash them on the floor. I felt like I had fallen into a dark pit, alone with no way to get out. I rang my sister. When she picked up I sobbed and sobbed into the phone and told her what was going on in my mind.

Before (when I was pregnant)

Amy was my miracle, my long-awaited baby! God was on this and He was with us, it was going to be amazing! I prayed that He would prepare my heart and that I would be a perfect example of His love to my kids. That I would represent Him well and be the physical manifestation of His heart towards my kids. I ‘rejected in Jesus name’ any of the negative stories that I heard about parenthood, because I was doing this with Jesus. Holy Spirit and I…. man we were tight. I knew how to hear His voice so well and I certainly had His joy living inside of me. I felt I had been through enough personal ‘fires’ to be prepared. I had been through a lot, including seasons of loneliness, anxiety (with heart palpitations) and the pain of a miscarriage; I had the tools to get through the tough stuff.

Worship has such a central part of my journey when we were trying to fall pregnant. I would worship God when I was in pain and instantly be lifted up and filled with joy and freedom. I (naively) dreamt that Amy and I would worship for hours and hours together. That the atmosphere in our house would be as it always was, a place of peace and rest, where the presence of God would be so tangible.

Additionally, I was so conscious of the negative impact that parents can have on their kids. Little people’s personalities are developed by the time they are four, so what I did in those early years really mattered. I didn’t want my kids to have to ‘forgive my mother for (insert reason here)’ in a therapy or sozo session years later.

During the first year

During Amy’s first year of life she cried – A. LOT. – and so did I. I clearly remember one Sunday afternoon she cried for 5 hours straight. I did everything and I really do mean everything: Feeding, burping, cuddling, pumping her little legs, leaving her to cry it out (it got worse and worse), every holding position I knew, bathing her, giving her Panadol, walking up and down the house, changing the nappy, praying in tongues, praying with words, singing worship etc. Nothing helped and some of it made it even worse. I had nothing left to give… absolutely nothing. I put her back into her cot, shut all the doors and with tears slowing rolling down my face, I sent out an SMS to a few people and asked them to pray. Amy fell asleep 20 minutes later and I sobbed on the bed. People may say “Amen, yeah she did, those prayers worked.” All I felt was my failure. I had tried everything and I was carrying the Holy Spirit with me. His love never failed, but apparently mine did.

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Church life, which has one been a place of pure joy and freedom, become an isolating experience. Tim was on staff, so we rarely got to be with him during a service and he was unable to help me. I would drive to church and spend most the time in the nursing mothers room or unsupervised crèche. After the service one of my beautiful friends would usually seek me out for a quick hello, but by then Amy was in the ‘feral zone’ so I would dash off not having heard the message, been able to engage in worship or connect with my church community. I would then drive the 30 minutes home with a tired child screaming at the top of her lungs. We would arrive back home both in a mess of tears and totally exhausted.

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I started to become angry and I wasn’t a naturally angry person. I thought things and said things in my head that I never thought would enter my life. I would hear people say how well I was doing or looking etc. and all I could think was “You don’t know the half of it.” I was also constantly told (by people who no longer had young kids) to “Treasure every moment, because it goes so fast.” So, I started stressing about ‘treasuring every moment’ and tried to put my energy into that. Turns out that ‘treasuring EVERY moment’ is hard to do when your little one cries a lot and you are running on empty.

Looking back, I clearly didn’t ask for help as much as I should have, mostly because I believed the lie that I shouldn’t. I prayed for this, I asked for this, this was my new ministry and my responsibility. I also didn’t think people would understand why I was in so much pain and I didn’t know how to articulate what was I was going through. I had also heard it said (unfortunately many times) that when Christians ‘burn out’ it’s because they aren’t getting their strength from God; that it is somehow a reflection of their relationship with Him. They are a failure. The thing was, I was actually inviting Holy Spirit into everyday, I would say it when I woke up and asked Him to help me constantly. I was trying to get my strength from Him, but I wasn’t able to spend time with Him like I used to. Plus, any time I planned a worship session at home, Amy would go ballistic and cry the place down. I was trying so hard to not become self-centered and continued to pour into other people’s lives like I used to. I spent a lot of time praying for and ‘counselling’ other people through their own pains. I wasn’t working after all so ‘I had the time’. I was giving out in excess, while feeling as though I was letting everyone down.

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Just to add to the growing burdens that I was carrying, I knew there were many other people in the world who had it worse than me, which of course made me feel worse about feeling worse. I ‘should be able to do this’ and I ‘really didn’t have anything to complain about’. It was a downward spiral. I didn’t understand that I was burning through my serotonin levels faster than a mentally healthy person. All I knew was that I was somehow ‘failing’. Failing Amy, failing God, failing at this thing called Motherhood. What made it harder was the fact that I had prayed and dreamed about this season for over 3 years. Amy was a miracle, she was a precious gift, but all I wanted to do was be alone so I could cry without her seeing.

I asked God to help me. I asked Him to remove my heaviness, my sadness and my anger and yet… it remained. I meditated on scriptures, stuck them all around the house and yet it remained. I made declarations and proclamations and yet it remained.

The phone call

So, just before Amy’s 1st birthday, I sat on the kitchen floor talking to the safest person I knew – my sister. She listened and loved me so much. Looking back, she represented Jesus to me in that moment; a perfect example of God.

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She met me where I was at and listened to the state of my heart. She loved me completely. She told me to go onto the BeyondBlue website and take their online questionnaire. We chatted for a bit and then she said she’d check back in with me every day for the next few days.

I did the questionnaire and it told me to see my GP ASAP because I was in the danger zone. Two days later, after being told I had post-natal depression, I started my healing process with the help of medication. They say it takes about 2-3 weeks before antidepressants work, but I honestly noticed a difference straight away. For the first time in about a year, I could think clearly.

And so my next journey began. Three years on I have come a long way in some areas, while others require a bit more attention. Honestly, sometimes I don’t feel completely victorious in these things but I chose to believe that I am a great Mother. With the help of Holy Spirit and others around me, I am gradually taking back the ground and replacing the lies and unrealistic expectations with truth and rest. I look back and I’m grateful for how far I’ve come.

After

My family and I were recently talking about whether or not God heals people with serious mental health disorders. The Flatt clan likes to talk about the deeper issues of life, like really talk them out and challenge each other… I seriously love it. This is where I land in any area of healing… Jesus is the standard. What I mean by that is when you look at the life of Jesus he healed EVERYONE that came to him. EVERYONE! So, regardless of my experience, it’s God’s heart and intention that everyone is healed and whole. If I pray for someone and they aren’t healed, I believe God still wants them to be healed. Really Jess? Seriously, read the Gospels, there is not one example where Jesus wasn’t willing or where he said ‘No, healing it not for you. I’m not doing it. It’s not my will for you to be healed.” So where does this leave us?

This leads me once again to the Goodness of God. He is so wonderful, so loving and so aware of our individual journeys that He meets us where we are. I prayed that God would remove my depression, but for whatever reason it didn’t lift. And so, He made a way for me. Does God want to heal depression? Absolutely. Did He miraculously heal mine? No. Wait a minute, does that mean He doesn’t heal depression? No. For me, my experience does not alter the person of God or His good intentions for His children. Jesus is my standard. Where there is a gap, He meets me where I am and continues to help me along my journey to healing.

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If my leg was broken and after being prayed for it was still broken, I wouldn’t pretend it was healed just to prove my faith was strong enough. I would go to a doctor and get that leg fixed. Why struggle through the pain and possibly cause more damage and increase the healing time? I view mental health issues/illnesses in the same light. I will pray and believe for healing in the mental health zone, but if it’s not healed, I’m not going to pretend it is. I will take myself to a doctor and recommend others do the same. There is no point carrying guilt and shame, because you haven’t been miraculously healed. Would you judge someone else for taking a clearly broken leg to a doctor? I seriously hope not 🙂

My own journey

I am not ashamed to share this with you, but I do feel slightly vulnerable. To share my own journey and own perspective is a scary thing to do at times, but we each have our own story and there is power when we share them with each other. I can learn something from you and maybe you can learn something from me.

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I hope you are encouraged by my journey out of the pit, because if you’ve never been there, believe me, it really does feel like a pit. If you are in that pit yourself, you are not alone. Many more people have been there than you realise, in fact 1 in 5 Australian adults will be diagnosed with a mental illness this year. There is hope for us, for you and for me. God has made a way.

Love Jess xxoo

20 million dreams

What would you do if you won 20 million dollars? Oddly, it was this question that started us on our journey to resign from our jobs and head overseas. It’s funny what God can use to prompt you.

The question of $20M came up again in our household recently. The idea of winning that much money actually makes me sick. Who on earth would need that excessive amount when there are children dying in war, families being ripped apart by false promises of a better life and drought crippling whole nations?

However, if for some reason I did win $20 million, I would call together a group of like-minded individuals and dream away the week with ideas about how to invest into people. We would turn those dreams into reality, not by rushing into things, but wisely researching and establishing meaningful and sustainable businesses and programs. I would call Sarah Starrenburg, Adam James, all of our siblings and their wives/partners, Will and Laura (by Skype of course), Ben and Amy, Rian and Sally, The Hannaway Clan, Mike and Karen (more Skype time) and… ok, ok, that’s already a lot of people!

I would:

  • Open a store in inner Brisbane stocking only ethical, eco-friendly and sustainable fashion and beauty products
  • Build a house for my family with spare rooms and living areas to provide a sanctuary for tired families, missionaries or anyone needing a Selah (with an extra car for them to use)
  • Do something in Africa around eye health
  • Establish ‘something’ with (not for) the homeless in our city
  • Do something to empower our beautiful Indigenous people
  • Create and empower already existing support-networks for refugees
  • Look at some of the worst areas for human trafficking and empower the locals to stop the cycle
  • Fund couples looking to adopt
  • Support foster children and families in some way
  • Bless local school Chaplains and youth workers
  • Get along side and support the many wonderful and best-practice not-for-profit organisations that are already up and running
  • Take my whole family over to Rio for the Olympics and work with a group like Exodus Cry or Save the Children
  • Fund all sorts of small business ideas and local enterprises

And that’s just me, in the last five minutes… I might need more than $20M 😉

The question of $20 million might sound fun and silly, but for the Greenwoods it seems to push us into action. It reveals what we are passionate about and what God is stirring. It is a little scary really because last time we lightheartedly pondered this question, God followed it up with a “Is money really all that’s stopping you?”

“Oh dear” I hear myself think. You may recall an earlier post about rest; the main idea was that we were in a season of rest until we could dream again. Oh dear… haha.

I personally love the season Tim and I are in. We have the space to process, hear, learn, grow and it’s thrilling and stretching all at the same time. Almost every day we are sharing ideas and discussing the deeper issues of life, love and identity. Amidst the sleepless nights, grumpy Mummy moments, baby talk, Lego building and housework, God is continuing to move. We feel a stirring again. However, I have to warn you, it’s not the typical type of ‘stirring’ we expect from Christians. Although we can have big and grand dreams, those are not the end game. For us, success is not measured by what other people see us doing. It’s the little choices, conversations and relationships that we invest into every day that matter. Our 20 million dollar dreams start with our every-day, ordinary lives and how we choose to live them.

Love Jess xxoo

What’s on our radar in human trafficking

We just thought we’d share a few things that are on our radar (click on the links). Most are related to human trafficking or slavery and they are in no particular order.

10,000 children refugees have gone missing

Exploitation in electronics

(Get the full report here)

Recent change of focus for Destiny Rescue

We were so encouraged to see the latest reports from DR in late 2015. Rescuing girls is one thing, but having a best practice approach to rehabilitation and reintegration is another. Based on the numbers of rescues they were reporting in the beginning of 2015 we were concerned about how they were keeping up with the massive after-care process. We love that these guys are willing to go back to the drawing board and make sure they are complying with Governmental standards and helping these precious souls have long-term healing and change.

Shopping ethically

You will be horrified by some of the latest news stories you’ll read:

Most Aussies don’t know that in December Woolworths, Coles and Aldi were all buying prawns and seafood from a Thai company involved in the forced labour of men, women and children. If we knew our prawns caused someone else to be trapped in hell I’m sure we would all have a re-think about where we bought them.

This job in Margate with Save the Children

Maybe it will suit someone else 🙂 If you don’t know who Save the Children are check them out here.

Zika virus and travelling to Brazil

Obviously most things concerning Brazil are close to our hearts and this one is no exception. Another level of concern is that Tim and my Brother will be heading over to Rio in August this year to once again serve and observe all that God is doing in this country. We watch the spread and handling of this virus with deep concern and pray for the beautiful babies and families that are affected.

What is causing the microcephaly outbreak?

Olympics and Zika

Zika related abortion debate

That’s all for now…stay educated. Don’t shut yours eyes because it’s painful, but keep it balanced or we’ll all end up depressed.

Love Jess xxoo

Unforced Rhythms

Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message Version)

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I recently left Tim at home with the girls so I could attended a local church by myself, but what unfolded was not the spiritual connection I was hoping for. The service was lovely, the atmosphere friendly and the people had beautiful intentions and yet… as the Pastor’s message unfolded I felt like I was witnessing two separate and competing schools of thought. Needless to say I was perplexed by the contradictions I heard during the hour and a half I was there.

The first main train of thought was that all you had to do to be a follower of Jesus was to come to Him. Nothing else. There is nothing else you need to do. The second was that to be a ‘true’ Christian you must attend a local Church. Without local Church fellowship Jesus died for nothing. What the? Do we have to come to church to be classified as a ‘true’ Christian? Does Christian fellowship and spiritual growth only occur within the context of organised religion? When you quote “I will build My Church”, I’m pretty sure God had more in mind than Western Church structures and Sunday meetings.

I desperately wanted to sit with this Pastor and ask questions about what He was saying, but unfortunately large gatherings don’t lend themselves to open discussions. Perhaps he was having an off day and wasn’t articulating what he wanted to say very well? Perhaps I was actually ‘hearing’ something different to what he was saying (I know this happens to preachers a lot)?

In the past I might have agreed with most of the things this passionate preacher was saying, but those days are looooooooong gone. I am living in the ‘unforced’ zone these days, refusing to march to someone else’s expectations (or my perceived expectations) of what ‘being connected’ means. I am continuing to learn the unforced rhythms of grace within a transparent and loving community… and sometimes we even go to Church 😉

I LOVE doing life with my family and close friends. Many of them challenge and encourage me to think outside the box. They aren’t afraid to highlight lies I’m believing and through open and honest chats we discover more about our King called Jesus. It is not heavy or ill-fitting. Tim and I will chat for hours and hours about the character of God – podcasts or sermons we have listened to, books we’ve read, scriptures we have encountered and other conversations we’ve had. It is exciting and we treasure it. It is a delightful season of growth and even though it is stretching and challenging, it is also free and light because it is unforced. It is like listening to a heart beat. It is like a bird flying effortlessly in the sky. It is the rhythm of grace.

Love Jess xxoo