Welcome to A Life Examined

What is the examined life? A life worth living! As I look at the road ahead, I take all the baggage from the past and use it as experience - the pain and the passion, the sorrow and the joy - allowing it to carve wisdom into my mind and hope into my spirit.
There is no experience that can't be useful to me at some point in my life. There is no lesson learned that cannot make a contribution to the future.
A tiny drop of water is a part of the ocean. A tiny speck in the night sky is a ginormous star in the distance. It all depends on perspective.
So, this examined life is to offer reflections in the hope of discussing things which are of value to myself and to others.
Love, Sarah






Thursday, 17 April 2014

Security - Part 7

As we draw to a close this series exploring security and insecurity, I believe the ultimate alternative to insecurity is peace. But how do we live - and maintain - a sense of peace in this turbulent world? My experience says that the ultimate solution is surrendering to God: to His unconditional love, to His wisdom which passes understanding, to His promise to be faithful to us.



From Preface of FREE TO BE: Defeating Insecurity, Transforming Relationships, Building Character

Peace in this fast-paced and competitive world is desirable but rare. There are different kinds of peace—peace from war, peace with neighbours, internal peace. The type of peace I refer to is peace of mind, which is anxiety’s opposite. To be free from worry is to have peace.
What causes worry? Finances, concern for others’ well-being, a lack of control over our circumstances—all of these trigger worry. This book focuses on insecurity, the anxiety that springs from the fear that we aren't accepted. We worry about our relationships if we don’t feel loved. Unconditional love is the only solution to insecurity.
So where do we find unconditional love? And how do we sustain it?
This book is about you and me and how to overcome the nagging doubts about ourselves and our relationships. To be free from hiding behind a false persona and to find total peace of mind is what we want. That is the secure life. Anything less falls short.
Friends, it is liberating to live emotionally and socially secure, to feel loved unconditionally and to express freely who we were born to be. When we are free to be who we were created to be, then we are ready to do what we were created to do.
I fought insecurity and won. I believe if I can, anyone can, which is why I've written this book. Through my journey, I have come to long for others to the find the same peace that I have found.
Do you experience lasting peace? Do you feel loved beyond measure and confident that love is unshakable? How wonderful to have such security! If you've got that, I believe you are rare indeed. This book is a prescription to get to and remain in that state, regardless of your circumstances.
Do you know that we were created and are meant to live in security, confident we are loved for who we are? It took me half a lifetime to realize this truth. I believe we were created to love and to be loved simply for who we are. There are different kinds of love: romantic, sexual, brotherly. But the love I am referring to is unconditional love, love that is based on our existence, rather than on what we do in our existence. And when we experience this pure love, we experience pure freedom too.
Many of us have unwittingly settled for less than the personal freedom intended for us. We endure insecurity, fearing we will make a mistake and bring rejection upon ourselves, because we don’t know anything else. From the cradle our greatest need has been love, and perhaps we have grown sensitive to rejection.
I didn't recognize the full extent of my insecurity until my thirties. I wasted many years being anxious and stressed about my relationships because I thought it was normal. But it isn’t. While conflict in life is unavoidable, insecurity is a learned response, and what has been learned can be unlearned. I’d like you to glimpse my insecurity and my journey to overcome it, so that you can identify yours and be encouraged also.
When I learned that peace was possible, I then became aware that I didn't have it. Only then did I begin the long but rewarding road to healing. Now that I've overcome anxiety and found the peace that comes with self-acceptance, I long for others to find the same, so that all of us can be who we were created to be.
Insecure: by definition means “unsafe,” “liable to give way” (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English); “not secure,” “not confident of safety,” “not sufficiently strong or guarded” (The New Webster Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language).
I lived most of my early life with a strong sense of self-doubt and uncertainty when it came to my personal relationships. Though I was an able student and popular within my circle, later becoming a competent professional in my field and respected by my colleagues, I always felt isolated and unlovable. I thought I was trapped, wanting to please everyone but unable, and therefore unable to be accepted by everyone. I have since transformed my thinking, and so I am no longer riddled with anxiety and fear.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”1 I don’t believe that we are designed to be uneasy in our relationships, but we look for love in the wrong places, and therefore, so often, we end up protecting our wounded hearts. I offer an overview of my experience, combining Scriptures and suggestions to guide you on your way to freedom. Having analyzed my circumstances, I offer the practical direction I took so that, like me, you will be enabled to overcome the nagging feelings of inadequacy and fear that I did. To replace negativity with inner acceptance releases us into wholeness.
During my journey from a sort of shadowy existence to a life of what feels like sparkling assurance, I discovered truths and tools that I want to share. None of us will be accepted by everybody we meet. But we don’t have to fear rejection, even when exposed to other’s disdain. Because fear saps our confidence and steals our freedom, we need to learn how to rise above rejection.
The first step to discovering freedom is to recognize that change is not effected by an act of will but by a surrendering of it. It is “not by might” but by the power of the Spirit of God (Zechariah 4:6).
The Bible says, “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.”2 When I discovered this quote, I was smitten by it. God tells us that oppression will come but it can be overcome. How to correct the oppression that lies within us is the course this book offers. Believe! It is possible to live free from fear—from the worry, panic and anxiety of approval seeking. My prayer and hope is that each of us who takes this journey to security will become the entire person she or he was created to be.
1 Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854, http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Henry_David_Thoreau.
2 Isaiah 1:17, emphasis added.
End of Preface

For further analysis, experience, and comment see Free to Be, my first book. Available on Amazon (paper, ebook) and Smashwords (ebook only).

I'll be back next week... same place. In the meantime, happy reflecting - on life, freedom and whatever are your aspirations.




Thursday, 10 April 2014

Security - Part 5

Guarantees:

There are few guarantees in this world. "The only sure things are death and taxes" used to be the cliche. That's a bit cynical but with divorce and unemployment on the rise, certainly some certainties are becoming less so in our Western Society.

If you Google 'security', the first items that come up have to do with financial planning. We put a lot of emphasis on money matters and give a lot of attention to acquiring, earning and managing money.

In 1929 when the stock market crashed some people who were wealthy on paper became impoverished literally over night. Some of those people jumped out of windows to their death because they couldn't cope with their loss. Their security lay in their financial circumstances and when that security was lost they were devastated.

And yet I would like to suggest that if we feel secure in ourselves - with the sense of who we are - whatever surprises life may throw at us will be less of a challenge to navigate. Furthermore, the more confident we are in ourselves the better our relationships will be. We will be better able to express and to listen to others. And effective communication has certainly been seen as the root of relationship success.

How do we become more confident in ourselves?
By spending quality time alone, discovering what we value, hope for and want most out of life.
By taking responsibility when we make mistakes and forgiving others when they make theirs, becoming less judgmental, more accepting and more transparent.
By reaching out, helping others in need and receiving help when we need it.

When I look at who I was as a young woman, how much I craved love and affection and put my emphasis on my yearnings, my decisions revolved around other people and having them satisfy my needs. I made bad choices, particularly in romantic love, because I had a need to be met and all my attention was on finding fulfillment in that. What I've come to realize is that when I am willing to give up my ambition and focus on what others need, my life is full of love, joy and far more value than if I clung to that one desire above all else.

Once I recognized my desires but gave up searching for them and instead began to see others and their needs, I became much more confident, contented and fulfilled. The fact is, what we think we want and what we really need can be quite different. Once we surrender our wish list, we can get on with living -- giving and receiving life and it's opportunities. Then we become enriched by the ebb and flow of existence, where the guarantee is that there will always be challenges that enable us to grow in character, personality and self awareness.

As for me, the irony is that once I gave up pursuing romantic love, it found me. I think that, when we enjoy where we are, rather than exist to find what we think we want, life is more fulfilling and the things which need to be are more likely to come into being.

The road ahead may not be certain but when we are comfortable in our own skin, the journey is far more pleasant.

Road Ahead by Sarah Tun
May you enjoy your week. And remember, before too long, this blog will morph into LarusBlog, a part of my website. You will still receive email notification or Google+ postings as you are now. The look and organization will be a little bit different, but it'll still 'me', examining, sharing, flying through life.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Security - Part 4

From Insecurity to Security

I've decided to re-post this series as a series about Security (as opposed to insecurity) - because it is my goal to encourage us all to walk in security... In security, we walk in the confidence that we are lovable and loved for who we are. Insecurity, on the other hand, is not having that sense of inner confidence.

To my mind, the pathway to absolute security comes from receiving unconditional love - love that loves no matter what shortcomings may be exposed. While I happen to believe we have a creator that made us, knows us and loves each one of us, some people may not want to look at that. So, I'm going to make a jump and look at what loving myself - unconditionally - looks like.

First, from my book, FREE to BE: Defeating Insecurity, Transforming Relationships, Building Character:
One afternoon, while sitting on my living room carpet, I was mentally beating myself up for having made a bad decision. It was habit for me to berate myself for days, or weeks, or even months, whenever I perceived I had made a mistake.  What triggered this occasion was a decision I’d made to decline a job offer.  I came to realize too late that I had turned away a blessing offered and missed a golden opportunity.  So, upon recognizing my "mistake", I began my usual lengthy emotional spiral into self-criticism and self-doubt, with an added touch of self-pity.
These interludes of self-torture will be familiar to anyone who tends to expect perfection.  In hindsight I see that it was a sign of pride.  I was surprised by my failure because I was over-confident about making decisions.  I fell short of my aspirations because I tried to prove myself and left God out of the equation.  Now by punishing myself for the decision I was still leaving God out of the picture.
When I first realized my mistake I was devastated.  I felt shame, regret and sorrow; I had worked hard only to miss an opportunity that had sprung from my effort and my prayer.  There is everything right with diligence, hard work and optimism.  However, my motive had been purely self-centred.  I suggest that to wrap our identity in achievement and to hope for success to the extent that our self-image and emotions hang on the result is prideful.  (It is also an example of acceptance-by-doing rather than of grace-by-being.) 
To know and to accept who I am, exclusive of result, is a new aim.  I have learned that my willing attitude and availability matters to God, and to leave the result up to Him.  This has taught me to be kinder to myself, to accept myself as I am today and to surrender that "self" to the Lord for His pruning. It has taken humility for me to accept my limitations, but in doing so, I have also become better at forgiving myself, and ironically, I have become a more capable person.  Learning to forgive myself has given me new freedom which has enabled me to think more clearly and to execute with more certainty. ((c) 2012, in conjunction with Essence Publishing, Belleville, ON Canada; Chapter 12)


I have learned to accept myself, with my weaknesses as well as my strengths. That's part of what unconditional love looks like. And in the journey to practicing self-acceptance guess what's happened? I've become much more accepting of others. Once I learned how to love myself, I was far less stingy with others.

So, in a nutshell, security hasn't come from capability and success but from knowing myself and accepting myself, warts and all.

Before signing off for this week, I'd like to notify you that soon - perhaps by the end of April - I will be moving my blog posting onto my updated website, www.laruspress.com (currently under reconstruction). This means the look of the blog will be different and how it's packaged will be too. BUT I will still send you a link through Google+. Or you'll be able to travel there at will and explore under blogs a lot of different channels for posts. Also, I'll be keeping sarahtunexaminelife.blogspot.com alive for a while, though there won't be any new posts there, once the website is up and running.

Hope you have a wonderful week.... 

You can purchase your copy of FREE to BE directly from Sarah or from Amazon.com (see www.freetobelaruspress.wordpress.com/get-the-book/ )


Thursday, 27 March 2014

Security - Part 3

What is Unconditional Love?

Are you, like me, the sort of person who is sensitive to what others think or feel toward you? Sensitivity to others is a gift, so long as what they think doesn't impact your own sense of self worth. While it is valuable to be aware of others' attitudes, if our identity comes from what others think of us rather than what we know of ourselves, our own self-image can be quite shaken or damaged by another's disapproval.

Children love to please. And if they are pleasing to a parent, they will learn to feel good about themselves. The only problem with this is, what if they are not pleasing to a parent (or later to a teacher, relative, or friend)? From the very beginning of our lives, if we know we are loved "no matter what," we will begin to build a self image that is confident and secure. Knowing we are loved unconditionally, rather than based on our behaviour, success, or appearance, is at the root of our emotional security.

Learning to love unconditionally is a start to learning to receive unconditional love... Or is it the other way around?

I don't believe, personally, that there is anyone on planet earth today who is perfect. Lots of people are very nice, kind or at least well-intended. There are a lot of very smart people and very creative ones too - Leonardo da Vinci happened to be both! And a lot of people try very hard to make their mark in the world. For some, that's raising children, for others it means inventing something or making a lot of money. But what we do doesn't make us who we are.

When we are content with who we are, then we have peace of mind - in spite of circumstances around us.

Who of us doesn't want to be loved, not for what we do or achieve, but for who we are inside? Because deep down, we all must know that, if the money or fame or success goes away, will there be anyone cheering us on anyway, loving us and supporting us, regardless of our situation?

Security is knowing I am loved, unconditionally, for who I am. Security is accepting myself as I am, and aiming to be consistent, integral to who I am, even if someone else might disapprove. It isn't licence to be anything but the best we can be at patience, love, kindness, gentleness, self-control. But it isn't reprimand or shame when we aren't as good as we (or someone else) expect ourselves to be.

If you're familiar with the film, LOVE STORY you'll remember the classic line, 'Love means never having to say you're sorry.' Or if you've read enough PEANUTS cartoons you'll recall Lucy's "Psychologist is In" sign or Snoopy's placard that begins with: "Love Is..." We all have a take on what love is.

I think, "Love is... Unconditional". Real love doesn't stop if we don't achieve or fulfill expectations or behave perfectly. Real love is hard to find - and hard to practice. There are some relationships where love never fails, never gives up, wants only what's best for us. And when we have a taste of a relationship like that, we feel, believe and know we are loved. There is where our security truly lies.

We can find that sort of love in ourselves, in God, in parents, in partners, in friends.

To the extent I have experienced unconditional love, I've felt safe, secure, relieved. To the extent I've felt judged, even condemned, I've had to draw on the resource of unconditional love to help me through loneliness, disappointment, or self-berating. I've learned to recognize another's approval or their disapproval and not let it shake my self-concept as a person who is doing her best, always seeking to grow, love and learn more about life, joy and peace.

Although I've felt love and the pain of rejection, although I've fallen and picked myself up, my consistent resource for unconditional love is God, and He's never let me down.

Food for thought, 'til next time... 







Thursday, 20 March 2014

(In) Security - Part 2

Do I recognize Insecurity in myself?

The funny thing about insecurity is that it can be latent, buried under our every day interaction with others, and we may not even realize we live with it.

How many times have you seen someone dress or behave in a way you 'wish you could but don't dare?' Or have you never been concerned about someone else's impression of you, so that you behaved in a manner different from what seemed organic to you? I think most of us do modify our behaviour for the sake of the company we are in. Sometimes that's appropriate, like taking into account we are with elders, so we defer to them or behave in a more formal way. But sometimes containing our real thoughts or impulses is stifling and unnecessary, but we do it because we feel fearful or intimidated.

I strongly believe we are meant to live our lives in a state of peace, safe and confident within ourselves. And I suspect many of us appear far more confident to others than we feel inside of ourselves. (I've often been surprised when someone has commented on my 'obvious confidence' when actually I felt more like a jittery mass of formless goo than a pillar of strength.) I am motivated to write about insecurity because, for me at least, understanding the 'why's' of an issue or problem is half way to overcoming it. And I'd like every one to feel as secure as they are meant to be.

When I wrote my first draft of my first piece of non-fiction, originally entitled FIGHT INSECURITY AND WIN! I asked a friend if she'd read it with the view to having her endorse the book. She read it, she endorsed it. But what amazed us both was that she said until she had read the book, she hadn't realized she wrestled with insecurity personally.

Isn't that neat?

I'd asked a woman I'd known for years, a director of an organization and a manager of many people, if she'd read and endorse a book about overcoming insecurity, and when she read it, she discovered the subject was currently relevant to her personally. I find that exciting.

"Peace in this fast-paced and competitive world is desirable but rare. There are different kinds of peace -- peace from war, peace with neighbours, internal peace. The type of peace I refer to is peace of mind, which is anxiety's opposite. To be free from worry is to have peace." (from Preface, FREE TO BE: Defeating Insecurity, Transforming Relationships, Building Character by yours truly, aka Sarah Tun, in conjunction with Essence Publishing, Belleville, Ontario, Canada (c) 2012.

So, those of you who read this blog weekly, perhaps you'll think of friends, relatives or yourself as one who would benefit from journeying though your past and present, to ensure your future is full of peace. For some it may be usual, for others rare. But it is my hope that as we journey through this life, we grow to accept ourselves more and find greater and deeper peace as we do.

I had a nice break last week, but it's good to be back! Until next week, may you be very much enriched with each new experience.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Insecurity - Part 1

WHAT DO I MEAN BY INSECURITY?

Some fear is good, some fear is bad... If you're in the woods and it's getting dark and you hear coyotes howling, or you're in the bush and hear lions roaring, perhaps it's an occasion for healthy fear! On the other hand, if you are attending your high school reunion and you're worried that old friends may scrutinize you and find you of lesser value than they are, or you are dating someone whom you are trying to impress and are afraid s/he won't accept you just as you are, then you are demonstrating signs of insecurity.

Insecurity is based in fear. When we feel insecure, it is because we are afraid we won't get approval.

I'm the sort of person who is acutely conscious of other people's moods; I used to be afraid that, if those moods were negative, they were somehow linked to me. I am also sensitive; so in the past, I was generally emotionally on edge, based on the fear that I wasn't accepted or loved unconditionally. 

As a young person, I was incredibly insecure. I tapped into other people's negative feelings, and quite naturally took responsibility for them -- feeling as though I was at fault somehow. I'm sure contributing factors were that I didn't feel I fit in at home, or  that for 3 years I was bullied in elementary school, but for whatever reason, there was inside of me a longing for acceptance that I wasn't receiving in a way that I needed, and it controlled my attitude toward myself and my interactions with others well into adulthood.

I think what is common to all of us is that desire to be accepted and I think it's also common that, at one time or another, we don't feel we are accepted unconditionally, just for who we are.

But anything can produce a good outcome. What matters to me is the person I become, in spite of and because of my experiences, which includes adversity. I confess, I've had to work hard to stop being a slave to my own fear.... it took me years to break the habit of trying to project a perfect image on the one hand and feeling I was doomed to fail, on the other. A change in my thinking had to occur. Now, my attitude is no longer one of fear but of acceptance - of myself and of my circumstances. Now, I am enthusiastic, even in challenging relationships, knowing all experience is part of what shapes me into the person I was created to be. 

It seems to me worthwhile to write about the discoveries I've made during my journey to find security and inner confidence.

What do I mean by confidence? I mean that sense of inner peace and assurance that, in spite of shortcomings, I accept myself and live and relate from that place.

What do I mean by insecurity? I mean  that sense of discomfort and fear, because we're unsure that we're accepted, or even loved, for who we really are. 

When we value ourselves, we exude confidence and comfort that we may otherwise feel we have to earn.

Insecurity: In order to find the richness and hope that life has to offer, I have chosen to face mine and have learned to overcome. I look forward to sharing some of my journey with you. And I hope you'll feel drawn to share some of yours with me.

Until ... two week's time... I'll be back on Thursday 20th as I'm taking some family time (here in Canada it's March Break!).



Friends and Me at London Eye 





Thursday, 27 February 2014

Forgiveness - Conclusion (Part 8)

There are so many things that can be said about forgiveness.

I expect I could go on for many more weeks, discussing, explaining, citing examples. But I feel I've touched on enough to come to my point of raising the question: Why forgive? Why is it so important?

To me, it's alien not to forgive, but that in itself is only an aspect of my personality or an expression of opinion. I think there's far more value in forgiveness for all of us, that goes far deeper than a particular incident or relationship.

I believe we have an inner core. When we choose not to forgive, that inner core hardens.

We have a heart that is a piece of flesh that pumps blood through our systems. But I believe we also have a non-material 'heart' that defines who we are. There is a non-physical part of us, where we are vulnerable, sincere, genuine, the place in our being where what really matters to us resides. When we have been hurt we are understandably tempted to protect that inner core - it's only natural; we don't want to be hurt again. But in protecting that part of us that is so delicate, we can put up barriers to keep hurt out. In so doing, we also make it difficult for our true selves to live, breathe, express.

Apart from being unforgiving because we have been hurt, there is also the aspect that if another person has done wrong, he should face consequences. I believe this is true. But if those consequences includes our judging them, we are really hurting ourselves. I happen to read the Bible, where it says, 'don't judge or else you'll be judged.' I understand this to imply a few different things but the one thing I'll address here is this:

There is self-interest in forgiveness, maybe it's even selfish. Forgiveness is healthy.

When we forgive, we are letting go of an issue and living in the present rather than in the past. When we forgive, we are keeping ourselves soft so that our faith and trust in people can be restored through other - better - relationships. When we forgive, we place all of the judgment we are putting on the other person to the courts, or onto their own conscience. When we don't forgive the opposite is true: by keeping that antagonism alive, we are hardening ourselves.

It is ironic that when we are unforgiving we may think we are holding the other party to account for a wrongdoing. In actual fact, we are holding ourselves to account for the relationship and trapping ourselves in the past.

Forgiveness and trust are not the same. Forgiving someone doesn't mean we blindly trust them again. It does mean not personally holding them to account for what damaging thing they have said or done. It means not having expectations or demands or requests that they fulfill. Forgiveness sets us free from the one who has caused us hurt or pain.

Of course there is risk involved in forgiving and opening ourselves to the future. We may get hurt again, in fact, we can almost guarantee that we will. But we will be wiser from the experience, and not fall as hard the next time. Trying to prevent being hurt again by holding on to the anger or bitterness will prevent joy as well.

I spoke last week about my mother, who died of cancer. She was a person who was deeply disappointed in me and in many aspects of life. She was, in many ways, a bitter person, because she was unforgiving. Unforgiveness is a kind of cancer. I'm not saying that cancer is caused by a lack of forgiveness and I'm not saying that by practicing forgiveness you can prevent cancer. But I do believe that had my mother been a forgiving person, she may have been a healthier person, not only emotionally but physically as well.

"The Sound of Silence" is a song from the sixties, by Simon and Garfunkel. In that song is the line, 'Silence like a cancer grows'. The silence between people, when hurt and blame have occurred, grows. And in that growth, we can so easily nurture our hurt and feed our blame. It is so much healthier to give that pain and blame away, so that it doesn't feed on us anymore.

So, what do we do if we choose to forgive? Where do we send our pain? How do we express the forgiveness? Sometimes it isn't even possible to speak or to write to the person who has hurt us. Sometimes it is unwise to confront them, as they could harm us.

Just as we choose to forgive to set ourselves free, we live through the pain - the temporary pain - in order to heal. And we do heal, so that life can continue in all its richness. That's what I believe. It's what I try to practice. I've been hurt, but I've been healed. And life continues to be rich and full of hope. For me it's been a journey. But one I wouldn't trade.

Next time I'll start a new series, about Insecurity. Because in my case, through the experiences I lived combined with the sort of person I am, I developed insecurities from a young age. In order to find the richness and hope that life has to offer, I have chosen to face them and have overcome.

Until next Thursday....



Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Forgiveness - Part 7

My mother died about 5 years ago. I loved her. And she loved me, though she had a hard time forgiving me for some of our differences.

We had differences, particularly in perspective. One of the main differences between us was our attitude to forgiveness.

For some reason, although I've always been extremely sensitive to emotional hurt, I've been consistently forgiving toward whomever instigates it. I guess I'm so aware of my own shortcomings that I find it too much to hold a grudge against someone else for theirs. Instead, I seem to have a habit of putting myself in the other person's position and am able to identify, even if only a little, with their point of view. Some might say I make excuses for other people; I like to think I have a measure of empathy.

Not so my mother.

I wouldn't say my mother was vengeful or spiteful, but she could hold a grudge, particularly if someone hurt or treated badly one of her own. I remember as a young teen I had a part time job at a local store, and when I was let go because the owners didn't want to take the time to train me, my mother felt I was unjustly treated and vowed never to go back to that store. As far as I  know, she never did.

So when we had a falling out ourselves twenty-five years ago, there was a lot of shouting and accusation on her part, and there never was full reconciliation. She died with bitter words on her lips, though she arranged that a beautiful letter she wrote be posted to me posthumously, one that I will treasure forever.

Why do mothers and daughters have issues? I hold no expectation that our relationship was unique. In fact, I wonder if it isn't more unique to see mother/daughter relationships that have grown into friendship as the child grows into a woman. Mothers pour so much into their children and yet so often mothers and daughters have a lot of friction between them.

I think the key is expectation.

I watched my sister experience my mother's nagging and criticism, for homework not done or a lazy attitude. My sister was very brainy without lifting a textbook. My sister was the elder, and so my mother heaped expectation and responsibility upon her that she didn't put upon me. And yet, my sister and my mother ended up to be much closer than my mother and I. I think what lay the foundation was that I was oblivious to expectation, whereas my sister was fully aware of it and, though passive-aggressive, she was ultimately compliant.

I believe mothers have a right to expect of their children obedience, respect and honour. I believe daughters have the need to be seen as separate entities from their mothers. And in a struggle for authority on the one hand and independence on the other, mothers and daughters might have a hard time finding a healthy balance in their relationship.

But it is possible. Fast forward to adulthood. When we can be vulnerable with one another, and honest, then there is room for rebuilding.

I remember once my mother was hurt and upset about someone or something external to our relationship. I offered to comfort her, but she said, "No, you are the daughter and I am the mother." How sad. I was a young adult and yet she could not allow herself to receive compassion from me.

When there is pride or bitterness or a lack of forgiveness within, there is a hardness of heart that affects our entire being. Ultimately, doesn't it affect every relationship, putting us out of reach of love and gentleness?

I was not an easy daughter and in hindsight, I wish I had been. Now as a mother myself, I find it easy to forgive my mother for her flaws and mistakes as I make so many myself. But when I consider friends and relatives, some of whom have great family relationships and others not so much, I think the one thing I see in common with the healthier relationships is acceptance and forgiveness.

The last time I saw my mother, she was full of cancer and was not happy to see me. She poured out her disappointment toward me; I saw, for the first time, her competitiveness, her sarcasm and her criticism of me as I'd been growing up. I'm no hero, but in spite of her hostility toward me, I managed to keep cool and say to her repeatedly that I loved her. She couldn't receive it at the time but perhaps it struck a chord. A few weeks after her death, I received a letter wishing me the best life would have to offer.

There is no way of knowing how we will end our days. We can choose to make the most of the ones we have. For me, a key to achieving that is by loving, apologizing and forgiving.

Until next week... I hope all of your relationships will be full of honestly, courage and acceptance.

Mom with Grandson by Sarah Tun


Thursday, 13 February 2014

Forgiveness - Part 6

Sibling Rivalry.

There are a lot of things that siblings can argue about when they are young. I believe parents need to guide their children to love each other, to get over the hurdles, and to teach them how to respect each other so that when they grow up they can be friends.

I have a friend who has three siblings. With both parents gone now, they make every effort to spend quality time together, even though they don't live in the same city. That's beautiful to see.

It isn't like that in all families.

I was the youngest of two children. I remember my sister being forced to wear the same design of coat that I had. It was embarrassing for her and I felt sorry for her, even though it wasn't my fault my mother sometimes chose identical clothes. I remember her being given a classical guitar when she wanted an acoustic one. I felt sorry she didn't get what she really wanted. Things seemed to go that way a lot for her, while I seemed to manage more often to get what I wanted.  At least that's how I think she perceived it.

My mother usually blamed her for arguments between us, siting her as the elder who should know better. It wasn't my fault my mother scolded her, but I think she blamed me.

When there is more than one child in a family there is bound to be some sibling rivalry. How that is grappled with is really important. My mother had no siblings so she wasn't very well equipped to teach us how to love each other, though she sorely wanted us to.

We can take our families for granted. We can wish they were different or, as I sometimes did, imagine we were adopted so that one day the reason I didn't fit in would be discovered and my 'real' family would embrace me and I could escape the isolation of the current family.

Instead, those of us who feel like misfits, muddle through childhood, and jump into the garden of freedom as soon as possible, only to discover life, with all it's complicated relationships, isn't so ideal after all.

I wonder if my sister thinks I had it easier than she did. We both had our traumas growing up and our disappointments. I remember observing her struggles, but as I was younger, I didn't know how to show empathy. I wish I could have. That might have made us closer. Instead, I can't help thinking she compared my disappointments with hers, and finding hers the more challenging, concluded life treated her more unfairly.

Forgiveness is realizing the past can't be changed and accepting the circumstances and people of the past for what they were. Although there is a gulf between my sister and me, I forgive myself for anything I did to provoke it and I forgive her for not seeing me for who I am now.

Readers, if you have a sibling (or three), may I encourage you to reach out to them and show them love, grace and acceptance. If they are your friends, that is such a wonderful gift! But if they've hurt you, while you may not want to give your trust away, perhaps you could ask yourself what it is you expect from them that they haven't delivered. You may discover they weren't able to give what you'd hoped for, not out of carelessness, but out of ignorance or innocence. And that recognition will give you room to begin to forgive.

As tomorrow is the calendar day to express love, I'd like to share a heart or two with you, hoping love and forgiveness today will bring you joy and freedom tomorrow.

Heart to Heart by Sarah Tun


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Forgiveness - Part 5

Forgiving "God" :

I think most of us want to feel we have some sense of control over our lives. There are some people, I suppose, who are totally able to take events and circumstances 'as they come', having no desire or need for any degree of self-determination. But I think most people have some measure of desire to engage their WILL to determine - at least to some degree - how their life maps out.

And when our master plan (or key elements of it) doesn't materialize, we might be tempted to hold a 'master planner' responsible. While I recognize that some people don't believe in a master planner at all, because I do, I can't help wondering if some of the people who deny the existence of a master planner do so as a way of getting back at him for not allowing their desires to be satisfied. But that's a debate that might be better explored some other time or place...

(And of course I hope any atheists or agnostics will forgive me for my ruminations.)

So far in this series, I've talked about forgiving ourselves and our families. But what about "GOD"? If there is a master of the universe, why doesn't he make things pleasant all of the time? Why do good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people? And why don't I get my way all of the time (I'm not being entirely facetious)?

Whether we view God as malevolent or benevolent, or not view him (or her?) at all, I believe there is within us an in-born sense that we cannot control everything and when something occurs within our frame of reference that is really unjust we rail! The death of our child, the agony of personal failure, a holocaust or a natural disaster triggers in most of us some kind of disillusionment, shock, feeling of helplessness that becomes anger or despondency. "9/11" triggered a type of grief around a nation and throughout the world that has seen no equal before or since. The aftermath of tsunamis and hurricanes bring with the pain incredible acts of generosity and care. But the 'Where was God?' question echoes throughout society.

I'm not intending to address the theology of God but rather the sense that there is a universal experience of helplessness among humanity that sometimes turns it's face to the sky and says, 'Why is this happening?!' in anger and bitterness. So, what do we do with anger and resentment that cannot change a situation, but that will change us if we don't find forgiveness? How do we forgive 'fate', God, or that invisible entity that chooses to allow bad things to happen?

I say, quite honestly, that it isn't for us to forgive in these instances, but that it is incredibly audacious to think we can see the end from the beginning and even make an assessment. I say, we need in those circumstances to grieve but not to hold on to fury - because that will eat us! We need to ask "Why?" but then to accept we may never receive an answer.

I hadn't expected to write this post - in a way it's a bit of a digression. But as I re-read the previous post it occurred to me that bitterness, which sits very close to unforgiveness, can settle in even when we experience situations at arm's length: situations such as natural disasters, foreign wars, or the actions of a political party or politician. To cope, we may have a target and aim our blame. And if there isn't a human to blame we may make a target of 'God'. But we do this at our peril... not because fire may strike us down! But because the fire within us can consume our minds and our hearts and make us hard, cold or cynical. And it's my belief that cynicism is soul destroying - crushing love, hope and joy.

So, my take on forgiving events or an entity larger than our own humanity - whether it be an earthly entity or a divine one - is to measure our anger and let it go. Turn it to generous acts which can make a difference to those who suffer the consequences of the disaster, or graciously receive the generosity of others if we are the victims. But turning it to fury that rails but cannot be resolved serves no ultimate purpose and eats away at us, slowly, imperceptibly perhaps. Inevitably, we who remain in this state, are consumed by our own hostility.

I've been a bit nervy perhaps this week, but aiming to touch on a reality we all face.

Always there is 'tomorrow' - and courage does it's part to get us there. Though trite, when Scarlett O'Hara said on the brink of divorce, "Tomorrow is another day" she was quite right in her awareness that time does bring the hope of restoration and healing.

Best to you 'til next Thursday...

Sunrise in Winter by Sarah Tun



Thursday, 30 January 2014

Forgiveness - Part 4

Why Forgive?

Forgiveness isn't something that comes easily and it doesn't change the past. So why forgive? Doesn't it let off the person who has done you wrong?

One way to define forgiveness... as defined on an Oprah Winfrey episode, "Giving up the hope that the past could have been any different."

When we think about our pasts, are there any things we wish we could change? Is there any one we blame for the way things are now?

Recognizing our own lack of forgiveness is the start to freeing ourselves from past circumstances we cannot change.

One of the worst moments in my life was something I've alluded to in the headline under the title of this Blog:
My parents disowned me - rejected me at thirty - because I remembered our family history quite differently from how they remembered it. Their rejection hit me like a brick to the side of my head. But I guess it isn't in my DNA to hold a grudge. To be honest, once I got over the shock that they didn't want to see me, life became a little easier... I focused forward and managed the usual life challenges that came along without looking over my shoulder to see who in my family I was disappointing. Of course I would have preferred relationship, but the dysfunction in ours was pretty hampering, so it was a relief to avoid, at least at first. I'm pretty pragmatic.

Then my dad died, suddenly and without warning. He had an aneurysm - he passed out and never regained consciousness. My mother telephoned me to notify me of his funeral. It had been fourteen months since I'd spoken to her. He and I were never reconciled and I grieve that to this day, although the relationship between us was always strained and cool. I suppose the past I grieve more is the lack of relationship, rather than the broken one.

My dad was always distant, and the moments I remember most vividly were moments when he showed affection to our cat and when he showed distrust towards me. Once, when I was nine, the boy next door broke our basement window. When my dad heard the noise he came outside and asked what had happened. I tried to explain to my dad in some detail, but the boy said I'd done the deed and my father believed him. I never held a grudge, but I certainly cried. And it created a deep wound that lasted into my adulthood.

How is it that some people feel hurt and others bitter at injustice? Some of us internalize assault and others lash out, I guess. Or perhaps it just doesn't occur to some of us that we can be anything but a victim, while others harden to their pain and to the one they believe has wronged them. For me, I think it is the compassion I learned when bullied as a child at school that has helped me to understand that all of us are wounded and broken (I had no compassion for my assailants at the time, but plenty for other people who were isolated or unaccepted). I could see the goodness in my father, even if it was pointed at others rather than at me, and in adulthood I excused his lack of emotional warmth as the result of his own damage caused by the war (he was a WWII fighter pilot). For me, forgiveness in these things was never an issue, because I was engrossed in my own pain,trying to survive the shame and low self esteem, so there was no attention on blaming or resenting my father.

I would like to say that I feel deeply as I write this, but I don't. There is regret at what might have been if my father were emotionally available to me, but I'm aware he wasn't  emotionally available to anyone - it wasn't the era for it and even if it were, he suffered post traumatic stress before they had a label for it - and that is something he couldn't change even if he wanted to. In fact, I can't say whether he would have wanted to change anything or not; I didn't know him well enough. But the fact that he couldn't be emotionally whole or available protects me from feeling responsible or hopeful, so perhaps that's why I bear no lack of forgiveness.

And it is because of forgiveness - a total lack of resentment - that I can say he was a good man. He wasn't a good father but I can separate his qualities as a person from his treatment toward me. Facts and detachment may not be as good as relationship, but they are better than blame or harshness.

I forgive my dad for his shortcomings. I forgive my mother for hers. I hope I'll be forgiven for mine by my son in years to come. But the key for me has been to look upon any other person as flawed just as I am, and to avoid building my expectations. In that way I avoid burdening others, avoid my own disappointment and overcome any temptation to hold onto hostility, bitterness or bitterness.

As I bid farewell until next week, I leave you with a pic of my dad - a highly intelligent, deeply wounded man who never had the opportunity that I have had to overcome the past.

Best to you until next Thursday.

Dad

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Forgiveness - Part 3

I'm finding this week's post to be most difficult to write, because it draws from responses to last week's that have got me to thinking...

First, I wrote Forgiveness - Part 2 in response to interplay at home (hubby, son and me) that same evening.

Note-to-Self # 1: Give self time between an event and writing, time to process, before writing a blog post (I usually do).

Second, it seems to some (my hubby for one) that I conveyed a belief that all of my son's effervescent displays of affection are self centered or manipulative. However, this isn't what I believe and therefore it wasn't what I intended to convey. Going through the post again, I'm taking a guess at where this notion could have been picked up:

from last week's blog:
"My son is affectionate. It is lovely when he comes to me and says, "I love you Mummy," and spontaneously gives me a hug. But love is not a fuzzy feeling we express when we feel good about ourselves or another person..."

Note-to-Self # 2: Make sure every word needed to convey quite what you mean is included. Instead, I'd like that paragraph now to read: "My son is affectionate. It is lovely when he comes to me and says, "I love you Mummy," and spontaneously gives me a hug. But love is not (only) a fuzzy feeling we express when we feel good about ourselves or another person..." I expect there are other parts to Part 2 that could be amended for clarity's sake, but I'll let it stand because it's a lesson to me to post only once I've had time to process... but now I'm at risk of talking in circles.

A third element that has arisen from last week's post is the idea of forgiving one's children. Is there anything to forgive of a 'blank slate', who is learning and growing (particularly from you!), desperate to please and often making mistakes - not because of lack of desire but rather, a lack of experience or sophistication? In one sense, I think not. Children learn to take responsibility but it is a process. But in another sense I do think it applies. First I'll explain by way of definition:

Note-to-Self # 3: Define words that may have different connotations to different people.

So, what do I mean by forgiveness? For me, forgiveness is accepting the limitations of another person and applying that acceptance to a particular situation.  If I am hurt by another person's conduct, when I choose to forgive them, I do not hold a grudge, become bitter or demand apology, and the fundamental relationship - whatever that was - remains in tact.

Forgiveness doesn't remove consequences for poor behaviour. But whatever consequences may result from a mistake made, that is separate from the relationship itself. Forgiveness also gives me freedom from the negativity that bitterness or unfulfilled expectation brings with it. It doesn't mean I ignore if someone has been deliberately nasty; that is rather an issue of trust and consequence. But it does mean I accept them for who they are. I will have gained wisdom and insight from the experience, and I allow my wounds to heal, not holding them over another person.

So, going back to the initial experience with my son last week, I realize he does sometimes hurt my feelings. Is it ideal that I may sometimes feel hurt by him? Perhaps I'm simply too close to him and so, when he misbehaves toward me, there is some room for him to hurt my feelings. To me, that's probably a bit of a red flag, and I'm practicing detachment because I want to enable my son to grow to be his own person. I am, by far, too much a reactor rather than a responder, and detachment will help me to improve at responding. But I take this notion of hurt feelings as quite separate from forgiveness anyway. If to forgive is to accept limitations, then our children, of all people, require the most.

As I write this post and compose on the topic of forgiveness, I'm aware - as anyone is - that forgiveness is a huge subject. There are so many situations, permutations, that any post will be an over-simplification. In 'the good book', when Peter asks Jesus how many times should he forgive... '7 times?' Jesus replies, '7x7 times', his point being, I think, keep forgiving. So it is in parenting, in marriage, in partnership, in any relationship.

As this post has been chiefly about defining and clarifying, I guess it's also for me to ask forgiveness. I hope you'll forgive me for making a clumsy blunder from time to time, or being ambiguous, or disagreeable. It is not my intention to alarm or offend but to share and to dialogue. I wonder, How do you define Forgiveness?

Cheerio to you 'til next week!




Thursday, 16 January 2014

Forgiveness - Part 2

My husband said to our 9 year old son, "You take away other people's happiness," and it's true.
I hadn't realized it until he'd said it, but our son robs others (including me!) of peace and just a general sense of ease and comfort, which I call 'happiness', whenever his mood chooses to do so.

He has a tendency to care very much for a few people and for the rest, he'll reject their overtures of friendship or kindness toward him with disdain, and sometimes even thinks its a joke to do so. I've observed this in him and encouraged him to correct it on different occasions. But until my husband spoke his observation, I hadn't put the two things together.

While I've been quite concerned that this child's temper flairs up with me, I've thought that as he is overly-sensitive and easily discouraged, I gave him room emotionally. But I realize now that the behaviour often has much more to do about sharing his misery so I can feel just as miserable, than his actual discomfort or suffering. Sometimes he does it as an act and thinks it's funny to pretend he's "a little bit annoyed" as a ruse. Act or genuine, I've had quite enough of it.

Which is where forgiveness comes in.

I think mothers, by definition, are concerned they're doing right by their children. Don't we sometimes replay moments with our kids in our minds, and think, "did I do that right?"? We don't want to be unkind, discouraging or unfair. Sometimes that's to the detriment of ourselves.

Realizing my son's been playing me for a fool has made me sad, cross and on the brink of spiteful. I consider the idea of telling him off, or of revoking all pleasures and privileges until he starts to treat other people (starting with me!) with respect and kindness. I think, 'If he treats his mother this way, how will he treat a girlfriend or wife?' and that makes me shudder.

My son is affectionate. It is lovely when he comes to me and says, "I love you Mummy," and spontaneously gives me a hug. But love is not a fuzzy feeling we express when we feel good about ourselves or another person. Love isn't a word we say to make someone else express the warm fuzzy feeling back to us. Love is deeply caring for another as much as (or more than) we care for ourselves.

I know my son loves me. I'm his mother and it's natural that he loves me. But I realize some of his expressions of love have not been sincere at all. I realize that sometimes he shows me affection because it makes him feel good and at least possibly, has nothing to do with me at all. And that hurts. Because whenever I am affectionate toward him, love is pouring out of me toward him that is deep, committed and assuring.

But of course he's 9. He isn't capable of understanding the many layers and permutations of love the way an adult can, though he's going to have to learn or else pity the girl friend or wife. And pity me a little for that matter, because I want our relationship to grow and last into the many years to come.

Now, how do I contribute to his education in this matter? How do I show him (because telling him seems to have no value whatsoever) that love is far more than an expression of affection. How do I teach him he's got to respect and value all others, whether they have something he respects and values or not?

First, getting angry or getting even, however subtle I might do it, isn't going to make him respect me or love me. Imploring isn't going to work either, and trying to control his behaviour won't teach his heart about love. Consequence will help but that isn't enough; I know that B (something he wants to do) must not occur before A (something he must do) happens... thanks for the wonderful book full of sound advice, Kevin Lehman. Your "Have a New Kid By Friday" is a treasure of sound advice.

But what must happen first for our relationship to improve and for our mutual love to deepen, blossom and grow, I believe, is forgiveness. I must forgive him for manipulating me (and forgive myself for my part in allowing him to do so - see previous post!), for taking my happiness many, many times, and love him in spite of his shortcomings.

It's not difficult for me to love my son. I'm discovering there are things about him I don't like, and I'm realizing some truths I am disappointed about, but I deeply love him. Finding the balance between firm parenting and building relationship is something that's difficult for me. I'm a natural verbal communicator, but in this case I'm not going to use words to teach my son about love and respect. And I'm not going to go into reaction mode, tail spinning into punishing him for being manipulative (and I realize that, in main measure, he doesn't even know he's doing it). So how do I deal with his attitude toward me and others? I start by forgiving him. When I've done that fully, I'll be able to see clearly the next step, and I'll let you know how it goes.

Until next Thursday, may your love be available, your lessons few and your forgiveness abounding.

J and Me by Sarah Tun





Thursday, 9 January 2014

Forgiveness: Part 1

New Series! Forgiveness...

I remember sitting alone on my living room carpet once, about twenty years ago, and mentally beating myself up for a mistake I'd made. I wondered then, how long would I do that before I'd let the issue go? I'd made a poor decision and realized too late to change directions. No one was hurt except me.
I gradually realized that I'd made a decision based on the information I knew at the time; it was insufficient information and I'd done the best I could with what I had. I realized too, if others could forgive me for my shortcomings, I could learn to forgive myself too. That was the last time (of many that preceded it) that I would pity, berate or criticize myself for making a poor decision.

This is New Year. Many of us might make New Year's Resolutions. Often those resolutions get put aside before February rolls in. Will you forgive yourself if you fail to keep your resolution? Daily we make decisions, small and great, that take us in new directions. Will you forgive yourself the next time you make a poor choice?

As it's New Year and my chosen topic for a new series is Forgiveness, I have a suggestion to make - a new approach to a blog post. Here it is: write down your private list of things you'd like to forgive in yourself. Anything can be on that list. It can include things you've done, things you've forgotten to do, neglected to do, refused to do. It can include mistakes or oversights you've made, slights you've made (deliberately or not) toward others. Take your time; the rest of the post will wait...

That done?

Now, will you literally squash, tear or in some other way, destroy the list?

Once the list is gone read on...

Which item or items from the list come to mind now? No need to wrack your brain. If you've forgotten the items, that's fine! If not, I suggest next to write down those few that you remember. Then, as you look at each item one by one, ask yourself, "What is it that I am not forgiving myself for?" You can keep it very simple, being as specific as possible.

Choose one of the items that you remember and determine to forgive yourself for that tendency, habit, oversight, action. You might even say out loud to yourself, "I forgive myself for..."

Forgiveness is a gift every one of us needs.

And any thoughts and comments you might have about this post or your experience, are so welcome!

Best to you for this week... Until next Thursday!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Mid Life Crisis - Part 7

Eureka!

There have been numerous gold rushes - in California, in the Klondike, for example. When gold was found, the miner would shout for joy: "Eureka!"

Today, I have discovered gold. Though not metallic, it's every bit as precious. I have discovered my limitations, and so I have discovered Truth.

I cannot save anyone. I know this. In principle, I've known this in my head for a long time, and yet today I have realized that I've made choices as though I believed I could. All my aspirations have been to make a difference in this world, to have the opportunity to speak into the conditions this world is under and to encourage people. But I've made the mistake of thinking the message was mine to deliver, and in the delivering of it, people would be rescued from despair.

Recently, I hit a crisis point when I discovered I could not fulfill my aspirations. I was struck by my own limitations. I thought the reason I was failing might be because I lacked the necessary skill, education and/or talent to do it. Or that the choices I'd made as a young adult were misdirected, and had taken me away from the optimal career that would provide a platform for my message.

I have indeed made a fundamental mistake, but it was not in the choice of education that put limits on my advancement. No. The mistake I've made, and I've made it over and over again, was to think that I could modify the message, to stylize it, to be creative with it, when it wasn't for me to do. Because it isn't my message to begin with.

I truly believe that if we have a desire in our hearts it can be realized. But this hasn't happened for me, and I'm not getting any younger! Finally, about a month ago, I stopped. I just stopped! The personal frustration and disappointment over my lack of breakthrough caused me to stop the pursuit and wait. Broken, it has been all I could do to get up in the morning and go through a routine, love my family and wait.

Now, after soul searching, prayer and fasting, I finally understand what the block has been: Me. I've been getting in my own way.

The truth is that I have aspired to save the world when I know there is only one who can save it.
I have lived as though the vision, perception, mission within me was there for me to adapt, weave and make attractive through theatrics, storytelling or personal disclosure, when in fact these were all thinly disguised strategies to satisfy my ego. I've known in my head I can't save anyone, but it didn't stop me from trying. And that has been my Wall.

Now, suddenly, all the pieces of the puzzle have suddenly come together! I've tried in many ways to live out my purpose in life, for I do believe we all are created for a unique purpose. I aspired to be known so that I would have the opportunity to share, and so to spare others some of the hardships I've endured. But that which has been my motivation has also been my hindrance. I have been motivated to do this myself, to show I have purpose. Yes, I have wanted to save others from themselves as I've been saved. But my strategy has involved my ego. My ego has been at odds with my aim.

Now, I choose to drop the ego. Ironically, it is only in this that I have any chance to achieve the purpose for which I have been born.

Jesus had no ego. I cannot save anyone, but Jesus can.

My motive operand has been to take what I know, what I see, what I see will come into being, and translate it into something more creative, more palatable, more accessible. You know what? I can't. I've tried. But I have limitations. And the kernel of my limitations is not my creativity, not my education, not even my calling. No. My limitations are that I am human and that I have striven to accomplish the divine.

And God forgives me. That's what I believe. He saved me from myself long before I realized all the nooks and crannies of my self-centered self. And He has saved others too. (It sounds pat and I don't mean it to. Honestly, I know I'm forgiven for my ego and for my weaknesses. I'm grateful for that. It means I don't have to berate myself and I can look ahead to see what's over the horizon. At least, after some weeks of seeing no horizon, I know there is one and in that is my hope.)

The piece of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit that I have to share is how incredibly generous the salvation actually is. It's so generous in fact that it goes beyond the boundaries of life and death, to freedom, creativity and an existence full of joy, peace, love, goodness, kindness, gentleness, patience, faith and self-control, so that we don't have to feel miserable about our little lives and our big mistakes, but we can celebrate all we are and all He has put in us to be.

That's the message. I'm the vehicle. But it isn't up to me to disguise it. Someone else may have that calling, but mine is to tell it like it is, and to encourage people to trust in Him and learn He made us to be creative, purposeful and free to be just who He created us to be.

"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." Bible, John 8:36 (New King James translation)

Free from my ego, I can begin to piece together the message I've got to deliver. It may not be in the funky, creative narrative I hoped it would be, but if my heart's desire is truly to  make a difference by encouraging others to break free of whatever holds them back, then I've got some of the information they need and the manifesto under which to do it.

Will you listen and take note? Or will you be offended? (I don't want to offend but I guess, even more, I want to deliver the message I've got, to whomever will notice even at a risk.)

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Bible, Proverbs 3:5-6).

It's time I trusted Him for the desires of my heart to be realized, and not let my head get completely in the way!

For those for whom the Christ-walk is a part of their lives already or for whom it holds interest, I refer you to my other (a WordPress) blog: Life from the Lighthouse where on 1st January I wrote about "The Ultimate Goal".

As for Mid Life Crisis, while mid life carries on, the crisis may be over. I'm not sure what will appear next Thursday but so long as life and health continue, I'll be posting here again. In the meantime, may your life sparkle with the hope of the coming year. Happy 2014!

Sparkles on Christmas Day by Sarah Tun


Thursday, 26 December 2013

Mid Life Crisis - Part 6

Writing:

Alan Tun 'wife working'


The single most purposeful thing I've spent the last decade or so on, apart from raising my son, has been my writing. Lately, I've been driving down a road of 'whether-or-not-to-continue' which is what has sparked this mid life crisis series. Recently, I had the blessing of a head-on collision with reality through a series of encounters including excellent tutorials and a couple of private sessions with a kind, learned professor. Thank you, Tim!

I have some talent. I have discovered that to tap that talent and create truly meaningful stories - and what is the point of doing anything less - will take me far more time and much more emotional commitment than I ever imagined. And much more time than I have the head space or real time to commit.

Yet, what is the point of learning if we don't apply? Well, I can apply this reality in one of three ways: I can ignore it and continue to write superficial work that will influence no one. That would be hobby.
I can stop writing fiction as I've not got the time to commit properly. Or I can persevere in light of this new information and eek out the opportunities to write whenever I can. Many other authors start out that way. I love learning. It would be difficult for me to "give up" the last option.

I've been privileged to get out one book (Free To Be) as a full time writer. I'm thankful for that. But that is a very different sort of book. If I want to write, publish and develop an audience through fiction, I'm going to have to do things differently from now on.

Reflecting on last week's post, Brokenness, I realize I have nothing to prove. Though it is possible to ignore that lesson and to persevere in the manner I've been living my life until recently, using whatever tool I can to make my mark in this world, I realize that I'm not an experienced enough fiction writer to create something special enough to achieve what I'd really like to achieve. Ground-breaking fiction for people who will be forever changed in their thinking about themselves, their purpose and the reason for which they were put on this earth, is what I really want to write.

But even more, ground-breaking ideas and opportunities to influence positively, is really what I'm all about. So, I have some decisions to make.

At this time of year, we tend to use year end to make resolutions, commit our direction to new or confirmed pathways. I'm not ready to do that. But what I am able to say is that, whatever path has been set for me, I'm willing to travel. I trust it will be one of interest and usefulness. I hope it will make a contribution to the world. I know it will be of some service to someone. And in that, this wrestling soul finds peace.

I wish you the very best for this new year that is soon to be upon us. May 2014 be a shade brighter, more hopeful and dedicated to serving others more than ourselves.

Until next Thursday, and next year!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Mid Life Crisis - Part 5

      e
Br k n es
   o    n   s:

There is a story in the Bible, which I happen to believe is a piece of human history, about a woman who broke open a jar of expensive perfume and poured it, along with her tears and her hair, over the feet of Jesus shortly before he was arrested, tried, crucified. It is believed she was demonstrating her gratitude to him. I'm nowhere near as generous as that woman, but I believe I have an inkling of what her level of brokenness feels like.

Over the past month, there have been times when I've felt numb. Weighed down by a loss of expectation, I seemed sentenced to inertia. I have felt the weight of uselessness, purposelessness, hopelessness. The woman who cried over Jesus' feet transformed her brokenness into a generous demonstration of thankfulness at his mercy and forgiveness. For me, brokenness came from realizing there is nothing I can do to make a difference in this world, nothing I can give that is needed in the greater scheme of things, nothing I have to offer that is needed on a grand scale. My brokenness has been all about me. While she demonstrated humility and grace, I have wrestled with vanity and pride.

And yet, time has taken me past myself. The inevitable has happened: I've discovered my limitations, and by discovering the futility of my efforts, I've been given a gift. Coming to the end of myself, I've discovered, is hugely freeing!

When we carry responsibility, capability and opportunity on our shoulders, we are delighted with the strength and self-sufficiency we feel. But if these things are ripped or stripped away and our powerlessness is exposed, our abilities are called into question, and our pride is wounded. When all of our vulnerabilities are exposed, we've nothing left but to feel broken. Brokenness is that state where there is nowhere to hide and nothing left to lose. If pride is the excuse we hide behind to avoid admitting failure, then brokenness is the inability to deny failure. Without a place to hide, there is no shame. Once we hit rock bottom, there really is nowhere to go but up!

At rock bottom we discover our identity and become free to explore.

This is the Christmas Season, a time for joy, love, laughter, sharing and giving. So, to you I want to share the discovery I've made - the gift I've received - which is that, in being utterly and completely broken of any sense of efficiency, confidence, purpose or use, I've realized I am unburdened, unshackled and reborn. I don't know where I'm going, but I don't have to force anything. There may be joy, love, laughter ahead. There may not be. But I've discovered there's peace in accepting where I am, rather than speeding ahead to where I think I ought to be. And in that, I've received a gift I never expected. I've known for a long time there's nothing I have to do or be to be acceptable; I am acceptable. But now I also know, there's nothing I can do or be that is acceptable. Relinquishing any hope I'd make a meaningful contribution to society has taken a huge burden from me. Now, life will unfold as it should, and although I don't know how it will unfold, I'm open to surprises.... perhaps more open than I've been for a long time...


Water Flow by Sarah Tun



So, come on 2014... I'm looking to let the future wash over me. And rather than pushing through the waves, I hope to roll, toss and float to discover how the future will unveil itself.

Merry Christmas to all, and I'll be back here on Boxing Day! Best wishes.