On collective grief & confession; the lament.

Solomon’s Room. 445am.

It’s 445am and Solomon is feeding. He’s not settling. Which is fine. I mean I’d prefer to be asleep, of course. But it’s ok. I’ll sit here longer and feed. I’ve got nowhere else to be. I can sit here longer and rock on my chair.

I’ve started reading The Handmaid’s Tale. It is confronting in a new way since I’ve watched the series. Not because of the atrocities that the depicted culture performs and condones; this of course is present, but tonight/this morning/lately, the protagonist speaks of what life used to look like, the things she misses and that which she took for granted. I can only read a couple pages at a time: the topic hits much closer to home than it ever did.

That’s my confession tonight. It is not particularly profound: I just miss lots of things. I miss certainty in work. I miss opportunities to occupy outside my home. I miss playgrounds and play dates. I miss the lack of fear and risk that permeates our interactions with other people. I also know that it hasn’t been that long, and I also acknowledge what a privilege it is to have a safe home to be.

But I still feel the lament.

Scrolling social media over the past weeks – which many of us have/are/will do- have you noticed a change in tone? I have. There is still rubbish and information overload, but I also find myself less envious of others’ Instagram posts. I find people are updating statuses with vulnerability and creativity. People are posting far less about #livingmybestflife, or #lookhowawesomeIam, and much more about simple pleasures, aspects of gratefulness, but also their grief for what this pandemic has cost them, or what it is doing to the world, to people they’ve never met. How wonderful. I’ve read more honest stories on social media over the past few weeks than I ever have. I’ve seen less polished performances and more humble offerings of creativity and generosity. It can still be noisy and overwhelming, but the tone is less aggressive somehow.

The collective grief that we’re all experiencing is/may be the singular event of our lives. What other story has impacted every country, economy and family like this? Covid-19 exposes the privilege and poverty of different spaces and places, but it also beautifully reveals the common humanity we have. And the tool that is at our disposal- the true strength of the social media medium- can be a way for us to communicate our collective experience.

There is an incredible spiritual principle of lament* in many faith traditions: the practice of “calling out” our sorrow. It is the deep, guttural “WHY?” when we don’t know the reason or the outcome. As N.T. Wright has argued recently:

It is no part of the Christian vocation, then, to be able to explain what’s happening and why. In fact, it is part of the Christian vocation not to be able to explain—and to lament instead

Wright, 2020

Lament, then is a heart cry that connects the personal story of loss to the public narrative of grief. It is the practice of speaking out and giving language to the mess- in order for us to move from sorrow into joy. Speaking out pain brings exposure and healing in a way that silence does not; indeed, as Breugemann writes:

Lament is an invitation to a public practice in a society that has no other text that is adequate to our newly embraced loss…

Brueggemann, 2003

Moreover, one of the incredible aspects of lament is the way that it requires an audience. It is the sharing and hearing of grief that gives the story its healing qualities. In the psalms the audience is God:

Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭69:1-3

I have been encouraged time and time again in the way that the scriptures, particularly the Psalms, champion and call us to lament: it speaks of a God who cares about our circumstance, one who Laments with us, and also one who knows the process that healing requires.

While God is often the primary recipient of lament, the audience of confession can also be each other. We are also called to confess to each other to be healed (James 5:16). When we confess to each other, not only are we restored to relationship and connection, but our lament may just give someone else words to voice their own similar story. Confession and lament can be interwoven together in the same grief.

Basically this is my long winded way of saying KEEP confessing. Keep story telling. Start posting. Even if it’s embarrassing and makes you cringe in your vulnerability. Keep lamenting. Even if it feels overwhelming and murky, like a tune that has a discordant chord that longs for a resolve. It’s ok if we don’t know the answer. The point is to speak.

The practice of lament, the celebration of collective and individual confession, is the vehicle of healing and one of the ways that we as a country/culture/world can ride out this storm. X

*many others have written far more extensively on Lament: I refer you to the great N.T. Wright or Walter Bruegemann or Matthew Jacoby for further exploration & illumination of the concept.

On choosing laundry tiles and anxiety attacks

About 18 months ago my husband and I were in the latter stages of our house build. After 2 years we were finally coming up to the point that for many is an exciting stage: bathrooms & wet areas. Unfortunately for me however, this is a nightmare scenario. Bathrooms mean fixtures. Sinks. Toilets. And the kicker: TILES. All of these needed to be picked and decided upon.

If you’re decisively-challenged like me, it ain’t no fun being presented with a choice that you’re going to have to look at and live with for the rest of your life, no. Rather, it’s your proper torture device. Kirsten’s internal monologue in this scenario: RUN!!

What if I don’t like it? What if other people don’t like it?? 

Over the years I’ve almost perfected the art of forgoing and defaulting my choice, often leaving the decision to others, and of late, my husband. This has been something I have done in many relationships, mostly because I have been desperate for people to like me – so if they make the choice (of restaurant, activity, movie, tiles), they can’t be disappointed in me.

Why is this? Do I believe I have bad taste? No. Do I believe that I need to concede my choice to males? No. But the fear of disappointment, the fear of creating a reason for someone not to like me? That’s the world ending. It’s painful. I don’t enjoy it. Even if the consequence of constantly saying “I don’t mind, you pick” is actually the other person resenting you for it, the practice is so deeply ingrained in me, I continue it, despite it being debilitating for me, and deeply annoying for those who know me.

Hence when I was given the task of going down to the local tile store to pick our laundry floor, I couldn’t do it. I tried: I went to the store three times. I returned 2 sets of tiles to the store after bringing them home and hating my selection. 

Cue meltdown.  I ended up on our kitchen floor in a fetal position because I couldn’t pick a tile. I couldn’t make a choice and back that choice. I stayed on that floor for over an hour, disgusted with myself. I was pathetic. And I hated myself for being so. So now not only could I not make decisions, but even when I recognised the destructive nature of indecision, I still couldn’t make a choice. 

I understand the ridiculousness of this moment: tiles don’t matter. Especially laundry floor tiles! Who even cares?  

It wasn’t about the tiles. This post isn’t about tiles.

The thing is, even knowing myself, even in the pain of lying on the ground in an anxiety attack, I had no pity for that woman. I was disgusting to myself at this point.

JUST MAKE THE CHOICE, KIRSTEN. BE BETTER. GET OVER IT. I was standing over myself, critical and full of judgement. 

I spent an entire session with my wonderful psych about this a couple of weeks later (this is a little embarrassing to admit). We spent time talking about my recurring fear of decision making, but she also encouraged me to spend time looking at my hatred and disgust of myself too. She kept asking me how I was feeling toward myself at that moment, and the words kept repeating: Shame. Disgust. Frustration. Hatred.

She then stopped me in my tracks and asked me what that woman on the floor actually needed:

Compassion.

That’s it.  

She asked me to ‘parent myself’ in that moment and imagine what a compassionate parent would be feeling and acting towards me on that kitchen floor. Rather than judgement, not only was it completely acceptable to feel pity towards myself, but it was also appropriate – and much more helpful – to extend compassion and grace to a young girl who just wanted to be told that it was ok that she was scared. And that she was ok too.

We need judgement FAR less than we need compassion. Judgement rarely inspires healing, growth and life-giving decisions. Even if it is ourselves who are floundering or indecisive or completely in the wrong. 

I have returned to that moment a lot since it happened. In my times of anxiety and self-hatred I imagine myself on the floor in the kitchen – but now I also try to picture the compassionate parent who sees her. What would be helpful to say to her? I try to imagine the compassion that is needed.  

And I try to EXTEND IT TO MYSELF.

Thanks to Shan who told me to write today.  

Also thanks to Shan who ended up picking the laundry tile. They’re grey.
In case you were wondering. X

Allowing the Ferment: Or, what Kombucha has annoyingly taught me about the process of reflection

Kombucha. What a millennial marketing dream.

“Look guys, here’s a drink that is homemade and environmentally conscious and healthy but also feel free to buy it from us and feel so much better than everyone else when you drink it.”

Many of you will know Kombucha devotees who preach about its benefits to everyone and anyone who will listen. They will tell you to stop buying/drinking soft drink. They even may tell you how easy it is to make your own.

Now my first reaction, like many of these fads things, is a roll of the eyes. FAD ALERT AHOY!! OPPORTUNITY FOR CONSUMERIST EXPLOITATION AHOY! Mostly I wish I bought shares in Kombucha years ago. Even if that were possible.

The amazingly annoying thing, is that kombucha is actually really good for you – as is many many things that are fermented. Fermenting is the process of a chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria – bringing agitation, excitement and effervescence. The positive outcomes of fermentation, are a plethora. It’s also really tasty. Yes, I admit it.

According to choice Here’s just a few; it Preserves food,  Adds good microbes to the gut, Increases micronutrients, Makes food more palatable, Changes taste,  Eliminates anti-nutrients,  Decreases cooking times, and Produces carbon dioxide (yay for bread and beer and champagne). Indeed, before we understood the chemistry within, fermentation was believed to be a divine process, a gift from God himself.

Now despite the base ingredients, the common feature of all fermentation reactions?

Time. It’s the process that brings the benefit.

So it’s got me thinking lately. Is there also a benefit of allowing ideas, concepts, lessons, to ferment within me?

I am an educator. I truly love the teaching process. I love introducing concepts to my students (or friends or family  – I apologise to all of my long suffering mates) and seeing them wrestle with it – even better if we wrestle with it together.

So many times in my life, if I come across a gem of an idea, or a concept that I read about, I instantly think of how/where/who I could share that concept with. Many times in my study I think – who is this for? What lesson is this? In many ways, this is a good thing right? Long live public debate; the exchange of ideas, the grappling of concepts.

But here’s the thing. Maybe I need to allow concepts a little bit of fermenting time in order for them to achieve their true potential – or even for me to truly learn the lesson for myself – before I share them prematurely.

The story that keeps coming to mind for me is when Mary (mother of Jesus) hears this ridiculously amazing thing about the baby that she’s just given birth to. She is witness to the shepherd’s story of a HOST OF ANGELS in the SKY, singing glory to God. About HER baby. And what is her response to this incredible event/news?

“But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” (Luke 2:19)

For many years I’ve always been dumbfounded and a bit annoyed at Mary and her reaction. Really? This is your response? You have confirmation of the deity of your newborn, and you ‘think about these things often’? Surely the first thing you want to do is tell other people about this, just like the shepherds did.

Come on Mary, don’t be lame.

But maybe Mary’s not being lame here. Maybe this is the ferment. Perhaps it’s a picture of something so wonderful, so special, that it requires a treasuring first before it’s shared with other people. The discernment and reflection gives honour and worth to the experience.

I understand the perhaps double standard nature of this post: Why are you sharing about not sharing Kirsten, in a format most famous for exposure? I hear this critique. Point Taken.

But mostly I think it’s a wonderful and weighty call that we can take seriously the responsibility of what we learn for ourselves, and then what we can share with the people in our world. All of us have opportunities to speak and be heard; some of us even have the privilege of being in responsibility and paid positions to do so.

If you are, could I encourage you, sit in the ferment. If you have a lesson that you’re learning, be honest about that stage – with yourself. It’s not about not being vulnerable, but perhaps it is a question of honouring what the process of reflection does for us.

Jesus honours the one who prays in secret – can we perhaps honour our stories and moments, giving ferment to them – so that when we do share, the words are curated, full of life; of effervescence, and much more palatable?

we the redeem-able, we the restor-able

2018 has not been an easy year for my family. There were job changes and losses and juggling. There was stress and sickness. There was the learning of how to parent a 2 year old that never forgets ANYTHING. And there was also the building of a house which seconded and underpinned all of our energy, finance, time and attention. My dear husband has basically been working 7 days/nights a week at his ‘real’ job and then at site to make it ready enough for us – But it is a site no more, because as of two weeks ago, we finally moved into our home. It is beautiful. I’m so proud of us. Of Shannon in particular, but of both of us – that we actually made it here.

Many times this year I’ve had conversations with friends and family who ask about the house or how we’ve been going, and I shared mostly about the hard work that a self build-off the grid-custom house is, and the toll that it’s taken. Please understand, I don’t want to whinge: So many people only dream about the opportunity that we have had to build this place. I get how privileged we are. It is a beautiful thing.

But it has been costly. And by costly I mean in time. And in relationships. And in health. And in sanity. I think about the disagreements that Shannon and I have had this year and all most of them have simply arisen from the fact that we’re both so tired and desperately just wished our partner would acknowledge how hard we’ve been working.

Anyone with me?

I’m just tired. and done. And after yet another Christmas where sickness has taken us out of celebrations, and after all the work and stress and frustration and envy of other-people’s-seemingly-simpler-lives, this is the prayer that I’ve been repeating – as I sit in our beautiful home – a beautiful home at the end of a really long, hard year

“Jesus. It’s been really really hard.
Can you redeem this for us? Can you redeem me?”

I really really hope so.

There are many names for Jesus – we are reminded of them at Christmas – but one of my favourites is Jesus the Redeemer.

Redemption is Deliverance. Rescue.

The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us…Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

Romans 3 (MSG)

To redeem is to gain or regain possession of (something/someone) in exchange for payment. Redemption costs something. It also requires a third party, the redeemer, to pay up. So Jesus being our redeemer, has freed us from slavery and death, in payment of himself.

As an aside – thinking about Jesus the Redeemer makes me thinking of the amazing statue called Christ the Redeemer that stands above Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. It’s truly magnificent: I’ve always loved how Jesus stands guard over the city, his arms raised high.

I have not seen it in person.

But what I have witnessed is in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. You take a suburban bus and come across a gem called Tierra Santa or the Holy Land, a Jesus theme park. You heard it right kids. An entire theme park exists where you can visit reenactments of the creation, of Jesus’ life, and you can dress up as biblical characters. What Tierra Santa also has is a Jesus that resurrects (and rotates) out of a mountain on the hour, every hour. It’s so good. Take that Rio De Janeiro.

But back to the Redeemer. This name for Jesus is truly wonderful.

Redemption is a powerful, enticing idea. And it is something that I long for so often.

I think it’s something that we all long for really.

Can those parts of us, of our lives, that have been, or are presently, destructive, painful, shameful – can they be freed?

I think that’s the real prayer I’ve been making. Not that my entire life would be replaced and made perfect – although that would be nice – just that the elements which are broken can be redeemed and made to be life giving.

The thing is, I think Jesus is all over that too. Because what is also encaptured in this concept of REDEMPTION, is RESTORATION.

Redemption means freedom FROM something, yet restoration – a closely linked process – is the act by which we are brought TO something.

Redemption FREES, but Restoration PROVIDES – provides new life, peace, meaning & relationship.

The two work hand in hand in the biblical story – both in small lives but also across whole groups and nations. God is in the business of offering MERCY to redeem us, but also GRACE in the restoration to beauty, wholeness & life.

I didn’t want to get too preachy in this post. Sorry about this. But it’s so good. YES. God redeems. YES Jesus restores. He tells us that he does. And I’ve seen it happen.

We often hear about the stories of people meeting Jesus and their whole lives have been transformed in one moment – like Paul on the road to Damascus, or the drug dealer who suddenly becomes sober – and as a young person I remember feeling so jealous of their stories when mine was a far more mundane one.

But the way I’ve seen God work in my life is within it – restoring and redeeming the stories of heartbreak, the feelings of loss or loneliness, the times of intimidation or embarrassment. What I’ve come to realise is that it’s an equally valid & transformational story.

He has redeemed my whole being of course – but every day, and within and through my life, he restores it.

Moreover, the thing that I’m so comforted by is the thought that the very nature of restoration and redemption assumes that there is something worth saving.

It assumes that I’m worth saving.

The very nature of restoring an old car, house, chair, person – assumes that they have worth. There are parts of me, of you, that are worth the effort. The very point of redemption is that you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, but recognise the beauty & creation in something’s, or someone’s, essence & soul.

This is the thought that has warmed my cynical, clapped-out heart this past two weeks.

If he is the redeemer,

I am the redeemable.

if he is the restorer,

I am the restorable.

x

black friday, true crime podcasts, and everything anxious

You may have heard that my husband and I are building a house. Which we have been building for the last 299409 years. She is a beauty and I can’t believe that we’ll be actually living in it someday soon. This piece is not about building a house – I’m sure many will come of the like – but it is about the fact that when you’re at the end of a house build, you rarely have money. The money you do have should and does go into buying boring things like curtains. and septic tanks. and doors. You know, the things that make a house liveable…but not sexy. Septic tanks are not sexy.

Now despite the reality that I know I should be buying roller door fire retardant seals (clearly the most exciting product on the planet), this weekend I have found myself scrolling Instagram and Facebook, seeing add after add of “BLACK FRIDAY SALE”, and wanting so desperately to buy all of it. Whatever IT was. Not only do did I want 1200 thread count sheets at 70% off, or that gorgeous Gorman dress that would be so amazing over summer, but the hard truth is that I cared less about how wonderful all these purchases would make me feel  (which is the #1 rule and trick of consumerism) and the identity I am creating (which is the #2 rule and trick of consumerism), and more about how anxious I was on missing out on the opportunity to feel better about myself and support the image that I am creating (which is really the driving force behind #1 and #2).

Let’s state that again. Yes I want wanted dresses and sheets and crockery and Rollie shoes and environmentally sound keep cups. But the anxiety on missing out on the opportunity to gather these items was a far stronger force than any desire for discounted Kikki K 2019 diaries.

I just didn’t want to miss out.

The thing is, this is what the consumerist society is designed to do.

Consumerism is DESIGNED TO MAKE YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT YOURSELF.
SO THAT YOU BUY MORE STUFF. It is defined as Perpetual non-satisfaction.
IT is BEST FRIENDS WITH ANXIETY and man, do they have a good working relationship.
The system works so well: Guys, buy stuff to make you feel good & represent your identity. But more than that, do it NOW so that you won’t miss out on becoming/staying part of the in crowd who have already done so.  

I’m not knocking purchasing. I do it all the time – just take a look at my 63 strong hoard collection of vintage dresses. I’m not even talking about the role of of unethical purchasing or irresponsible stewardship of our money, which are both really important things to consider in our purchasing habits.

But if you are feeling anxious about shopping – and what you’re missing out on, please. take a breath. wait a minute or hour or day to purchase.
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE MORE CLOTHES.
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE MORE HOUSES.
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE MORE T2.
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY.

Perhaps you are one of the chosen ones in our society who aren’t implored to shop. But maybe you like podcasts instead. I love podcasts. They’re so good. Give me a true crime, or a revisionist history, or a tv show dissection, or a Cultural Theory, and I am done. I am happy. and I am probably smug that you haven’t heard of the podcast yet and I get to introduce it to you.

But here’s the thing. I have been anxious about podcasts too! In my work commute I have an hour of juicy time to listen to my episodes. But more frequently than I care to admit, I have caught myself thinking “What podcast am I missing out on? What knowledge or in joke or unbelievable-but-true crime am I missing out on knowing the ins and outs of?”

This is dumb.

Podcasts are a privilege of the elite and learned. Podcasts are a joy of creation and thinking and sharing of knowledge and humour and wisdom and musical theatre. We should delight in the fact that they’re free and that we get to listen to them. We don’t have to be anxious about what we’re missing out on. Just put it on the list and you’ll get to it if and when you can.

We don’t have to add a consumerism lens to our resources and time.
We just don’t. It’s exhausting and robs us of joy and peace.
Maybe we can choose not to. 

You and I, dear friends, have far greater things to spend our time and energy on than feeling anxious about the purchases that we should be making to feel good or the podcast that we’re missing out on.

If you are feeling anxious, I implore you: Name it if that’s what you’re feeling, and consider why you are feeling like you’re missing out or feeling crap about yourself today. Talk to someone about it. Pray about it. Read some truths about yourself – Such as you are an incredible masterpiece, a gift, a delight, someone worthwhile.

It might save you some dollars and maybe also give you some joy and peace that lasts longer than it takes to open the package.

Can you advocate for me?

So you’ve had an illness for some weeks now. Maybe it’s a cough, maybe it’s a headache that just won’t go away no matter how many pills you pop, maybe it’s your kid who has had 17 ear infections in the past year. So you go to the doctor, perhaps again. You can’t get into the Doctor you normally see and so you’re scheduled with a very educated and very well meaning other stranger doctor who hears your story, checks your symptoms, maybe writes you a script, or if worse comes to worse, tells you to keep up the fluids and to ‘wait and see’. 

You still don’t feel better. 

You walk  away from the experience feeling disappointed and unsatisfied. 

Why is that? I mean the obvious answer is that it’s annoying because the doctor couldn’t or didn’t fix us. We go to doctors to get help, right? 


I’ve got nothing against the medical profession by the way – I’m grateful for those in our midst who were willing to sacrifice the years of study to know way more about the human body than I will ever  do – but again, so many times when I’ve sought help from health or other services I walk away feeling deflated. 

Maybe it’s because there’s something else going on under the surface. I think the disappoint may also lie in the fact that what we really long for is someone to be our advocate. Someone to take up our cause and say “I see you! I hear your problem. Let’s make this better for you.” We long for someone to follow through with that promise and not to stop until they’ve exhausted all options and it DOES feel better. 

The thing is, that’s not necessarily going to happen at your local gp’s office. I mean, who’s got time for that? 

I was reading this this morning though and it stopped me in my tracks.

“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’ “You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life.”

‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:55-58‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Be careful, oh my soul. Be alert, Kirsten. As weary as you may be, Be aware of who you’re looking to to save you…but take heart. 

Do I want someone to follow through on their promise?

Do I want someone who knew me then, knows me now and will know me in the future?

Do I want someone to hear me and advocate for my cause? 

Here he is. 

Expertly Amateur

I’ve been a mum for 2 weeks now. As others have said before me, prior to meeting your bubs, you try to imagine both the emotion you’ll feel for your little one, and also the way that it will change your life. Both imaginations failed dismally to what I’ve felt and experienced in the past two weeks. I mean, the girl is scrumptious.

K&A

The sleep deprivation is not.

And neither has been that feeling of complete incompetence I’ve felt over the past 17 days. Like when my husband and I attempted to change our screaming bubs in and out of 5 outfits last night because we couldn’t judge the size of said garments compared to baby’s dimensions yet. Our daughter looked at us with this face that said – “Seriously, come on guys. It can’t be that difficult.”

Can’t it? I mean, how difficult is it to dress/feed/cuddle such a lovely one?

Heaps, apparently.

In the last 17 days I have found myself exposed to my own (and my imagined daughter’s) criticism in a way that is supremely uncomfortable. I’m an amateur.  Seriously. I don’t know squat. And that, my friends, is the thing that I’m afraid of MOST in the whole world. Forget spiders, heights, *collectable spoons and cancer. I can face them. But looking like an idiot? Please God, NO.

I’ve built my career and relationships on the fact that I know stuff. And that I can contribute. Not only have I learned big words in the past to sound impressive in conversations, but I have also actively avoided activities because I have trouble being vulnerable enough to learn things and not be an expert immediately (just ask how I went learning how to play tennis).

But now I’m faced with the task of needing to learn how to be a mum -and fast- so that my child can live and thrive. Not fun. The fact that she’s learning too hasn’t provided comfort yet because I am still the adult, right? In this situation, I’m the one who is supposed to be in control, and yet I’ve found myself being intimidated by a person who is only days old because I want to do so right by them, but I’m not sure if I can.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that I can do some stuff, and some stuff I’m actually not terrible at. Here’s the rub though- I’m an amateur in Everything. EVERYTHING! Who am I kidding?! My dear God looks at my ridiculous attempts to impress him, and he says thanks love, but you don’t need to. I just love you. It’s ok.

There is so much beauty and space to breathe when I finally come with humility and realise that my state of amateurism can actually be one step closer to experiencing his grace for me. I’m so grateful that it’s ok to not to be an expert in life yet. My weakness and willingness to be taught can be a statement to his glory.

What a gift for me to be reminded of In Easter week.

Oh Dear Jesus, thanks for saving me from myself…

And please keep reminding me of this.

Kirst x

*Collectable spoons still terrify me.

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”
2 Cor‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

 

good grief!

Today’s the 4th anniversary of my mum passing away. She was really great. I’ve written about her before but seriously, how gorgeous is she? I want that outfit.

8-26-2010_027 copy

It’s funny when you wake up on a day like this. How do you celebrate or commemorate or acknowledge the day ‘properly’? How do you do ‘good’ grief?

May 13th of this year also marked 14 years since my dad died.

Lance was an amazing man. Like, seriously, amazing. He was a civil engineer and an inventor and a story teller and a snappy dresser and a port – both liquid & footy –  lover. Dad suffered with bi-polar depression for many years before unfortunately taking his life. My sister called me late in the day this may and we were having a lovely chat before she asked me if I had toasted Dad. I was like “What?”…then realised after a moment what the date was. I was silent for a while because I had forgotten the anniversary of Dad’s death….what a horrible daughter I was! My sister instantly assured me that it was totally fine, that he knew/knows that I love him….but the guilt manifested really quickly and I burst into tears after hanging up the phone.img006

Not only did I feel really sad because I had neglected to mark the day in my mind, the thing is, those of you who have been through a particular tragedy or losing someone – the anniversary is the day you can be sad. It’s your chance. You can be somber and not have to apologise for grieving on that day, especially as the years go on. You still have permission to mope for a while; it’s your space. By not ‘cashing in’ on the anniversary, had I negated the right to be sad in the future? Was I officially ‘over it’ and had to move on?

Of course this is being melodramatic. Of course I can be sad if need to be. Grief is not a finite period that you have to ‘get over’ and then become a ‘healed’ person. Sometimes you may feel guilty about not being sad, but sometimes you may also have to give yourself permission to be not-sad. That’s ok too. But I still struggle with these questions sometimes.

I heard grief described recently like a verse from “The Bear Hunt” nursery rhyme – you can’t go around it – you have to go through it.  It doesn’t matter what you feel like you ‘should do’, grief is grief; you gotta let it happen how it falls. The thing I’m learning about grief is that you can allow yourself to feel sad when you feel sad, and feel joy when somethings great, and laugh when something’s funny, and then cry again when something’s sad – it’s a wonderful, messy, great, awful time…and somehow, life continues.

Every death, every loss, every person that we miss is different, and it would be a deep crime if we prescribed “how to grieve steps” to every varied situation. Moreover, how you ‘do grief’ doesn’t necessarily translate to how other people view you or view your grief – and that’s ok. But I think one of the most important things you can do, and you should do, is give yourself permission to keep living, and permission to sometimes forget them in some moments – because you know what – it probably means that in that moment something else important is or was happening for you.

Someone’s legacy is not tied up in the fact that you must feel something on a certain day, or behave in a certain way. We often raise to an unrealistic level the importance of ourselves feeling a certain way at particular times.

What I can offer, what I think is life giving, is the permission and the encouragement to celebrate and share the seemingly both banal and ridiculous moments of your memories – these build up pictures of our loved ones for those other loved ones around us.

Like the fact that one of my favourite memories growing up were Friday nights in town. My sister and mum would pick up my dad from his work, we would have dinner in the food court underneath John Martins, and then we would go late night shopping. It was so fun. Even if we didn’t buy anything. I would then lie in the back seat of the car with my Dad and look up at the buildings and try to guess which streets we were driving down…Halifax street? Flinders? East Terrace? Which one would it be?!

Or the fact that my mum took my sister and myself to the library every week. Without fail. Mum would borrow something like 20 novels at a pop, then devour them if she liked what she read, or skip to the end if she was bored. I spent hours of happy memories doing the same, borrowing piles of books and spending hours reading at home in the hammock, or sharing a book with mum over lunch. It’s totally why I love to read now.

These are really ordinary moments…but it’s these memories which allow us to celebrate the great diversity of moments that someone’s life is made up of.  My husband unfortunately didn’t get to meet my dad, but he has gotten to know him through the stories we tell, from the one where Dad reheated cake icing in the microwave, thinking it mashed potato, or the one where he helped suspend a cooper mini from a suspension bridge….by sharing these stories, not only do times of grief gain perspective, but we create legacies of stories for our loved ones who are no longer with us.

So cheers, Joanie. We celebrate you and the way you would never eat at a restaurant without an entertainment book voucher. We celebrate your cheeky sense of humour and your love of Paris. We love you!

You did WHAT????! Or, the Art of Reacting Well.

Tell me something. Have you ever been in a conversation with a friend when you have news to share and upon picking the right moment, you announce I’m getting married/moving to San Diego/having a baby/grieving the loss of a loved one/learning french, and they give you one of the following reactions:

a) Indifference: That’s Cool.
b) Selfishness: I wish I was getting married
c) Searching for Points: I TOTALLY KNEW!
d) Lack of Support: You totally can’t learn french.

Ok these may be lame examples, but isn’t it the most disappointing feeling when you’re so excited to share moments with your mates and family, and they don’t seem to join you in that celebration or sorrow, whatever that may be? I was fortunate to go on some extended travel a couple of years back and when I was telling people of my trip, the most common response was “I’m so jealous!” I mean, that’s showing some enthusiasm somewhat, but it’s not that fun when it’s the only thing you hear. It makes you not want to share news sometimes.

However, I have a dear friend, who shall remain nameless, but she is my complete, one-stop go-to person with news. She knows how to react WELL. When I was getting married, she screamed. When I finally finished some study, she started crying in a shopping centre. When a loved one was very ill, she sent cards. and cookies. and flowers. and more cards. She reacts WELL. Even if she knew the news, she reacted well.

I’m 31 and apparently it’s the time to have babies now, so announcements come left, right and centre. Another dear friend recently showed me how to react well by sharing with me that when/if my time comes, she’s gonna be happy. She also said that she may struggle with it, being through a journey of her own in this area, but she said that she still wanted to share the joy. What a gift.

These ladies gets points. What does not get points, are people who claim news for your friends (“I totally brought those guys together”). Or people that tell you that they already guessed – I’ve witnessed (and, admittedly, been part of ) many a conversation where people are confronted with revealing news because they’ve been watched like hawks over their meal choices/facebook posts/stretchy pants/outdoor clothing purchases. That’s no fun.

People who also don’t get points are friends who don’t get excited, or even acknowledge that excitement is present, despite the fact that their friends are bursting with glee. Or if they tell you a “your coffee may have been great but I had an even better coffee than you this morning/when I was in Germany/when I was making my artisan pickles” story.  You don’t get points that way friends, you just end up looking like a jerk. And you’re not being a good mate.

If you did know she was engaged/he had started a new job/that they had a bad haircut, or you feel concerned about their choice, or worried about their future, save that conversation for your husband. or best mate. or hair dresser. If you do have genuine concerns, such as if your best mate announces that he is moving to Peru with a woman he met on the internet three weeks ago, there may be time for some sage advice and perhaps encouragement in an opposite direction, but SAVE THAT FOR LATER.

First impressions matter. Be generous. Your friend’s news is not about you.

#friendshipwin

It’s not about lying or deceiving someone how you really feel about their news – neither is it about gossiping about how you really feel to others – it’s more about the gift of attention & recognition of the moment.

If the news hurts you in someway because of what you’ve got going on at the moment, consider:
a) is RIGHT NOW the best time to tell them this? or
b) is THIS PERSON the best person to tell this to?

If you don’t know what they’re talking about, ask. Don’t dismiss.

If you don’t know what to say, say “I’m really excited for you/I’m sorry for your loss”. Fullstop.

If you’ve already seen it on facebook, say “I’m happy/sad for you”. Fullstop.

If you don’t care about what they’re talking about, say “I’m so happy/sad for you”. Fullstop.

It’s one of the biggest gifts you can give someone, and one of the significant strengths of friendship. Win friends and influence people, people: React Well.

Police Never Die, or What Boney M Taught Me About Christmas

So here’s a Christmas story for you.

Growing up, every year we would pick up our highly anticipated real Christmas tree from our local church and put it on the roof of our mini, then my dad would carefully arrange the tree in an old oil can with piece of bricks to stabilise it.

We would then put on 2 Lp albums on at the insistence of my sister and I; Boney M’s Christmas Album, and a Tijuana Christmas (Both still excellent choices).

Then as we decorated the tree, we would sing along. My personal favourite was Police Never Die. You are not familiar?

Let me refresh your memory:

“Police never die, police never die, police never die, mucho do wando police to die, I want to wish you a merry Christmas..I want to wish you a merry Christmas…I want to wish you a merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart…”

It took me YEARS to realise that I was very mistaken in the lyrical content.

I still prefer my version.

When one of my cousins was still young, with the clever idea of making her own presents at Christmas, she stole her father’s mouse pad from the computer in June and hid it for six months, then gave it to him on Christmas Day. I still remember his reaction; “Oh, there it is!”, and then thanked his daughter, even though he had replaced the item months before after it went missing….

The point of these stories? The things that we love, the traditions that we hold to, may be slightly less than perfect. They may even be a little ridiculous. The Christmas hats from your crackers may look stupid on your head. You may have to drive all the way across town to travel to a family gathering. You may have to brave the busy shops more than once to get that last minute present. You also receive a present that you don’t like.

Does it matter? No.

One of the things that I learned in my studies of camps is that Rituals, when they are understood, are POWERFUL. They are the ways by which we understand our culture, our family, even our faith. We understand much more through participation than we ever do by observation. I’ll say that again.

We understand much more through participation than we ever do by observation.

This is not to say that traditions can actually cause pain. This happens when they are prioritised over what they are supposed to represent; at Christmas, this can often occur when shopping for gift giving overwhelms a genuine spirit of generosity. Or a forced-fake smile at family gatherings required even when there is difficulty in the relationships. Or when the festivities remind you of people that are no longer with us. Or when we crowd the calendar with so much stuff that we don’t even get any time to enjoy the ‘fun’.

The thing is though, these practices are the ones that form the strongest memories. I am grateful to my parents who, when we were young, tried to convince us that Santa came early to our house because we opened our presents on Christmas eve. I am thankful to my mum who gave us Christmas decorations each year so that one day we would have our own collection. I admire my Dad for showing excitement when he was given another pair of socks and a jar of chocolate coated peanuts. I am thankful to my aunties for making cucumber and tomato salads every year because they remind me of my Nanna at Christmas. and I am really really thankful for a God who decided to participate in my life by sending his son to be born for me.

Love is born
With a dark and troubled face
When hope is dead
And in the most unlikely place
Love is born:
Love is always born.

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Michael Leunig, the very talented cartoonist of the above once said;

“the search for the sublime may sometimes have a ridiculous beginning”.

I love that. even when our attempts at the sublime, the sacred, the wonderful, the memorable, are ridiculous, are awkward, or even are a disaster, they must be attempted.

Your family needs it. You need it. And at the risk of sounding ridiculous myself, I think our country and world needs it.

So that’s why I will always push for a real tree (even though the needles clog up the vacuum cleaner) because it marks the real beginning of the season in my household. It’s why I will enlarge my collection of Christmas music every year to listen to. It’s why I will spend time searching for that perfect gift. It’s also why I want to make an effort with my family during this time because I want to know them as actual people, not just some randoms that I’m related to.

Maybe even if it’s ridiculous, try to really celebrate this year. Redeem the traditions in your life and your family. Attempt the sublime.

You can even sing a chorus of Police Never Die if it gets you in the mood….