Racism & Prejudice

In regards to the recent (and the not so recent) deaths due to racism and prejudice, regardless of colour and/or any other perceived justified reason for such behaviour to any extent, life threatening or not, I considered my own power to have influence, based on the choices that I make.

Two stories came to mind. Both of which I experienced while in Africa in 2013.

Story One: I had gotten off my bus at the station and was now walking through a marketplace to get to the stop where I would catch my bus home. It was while I was walking through the market in the middle of the day, albeit not very busy, that a guy casually started walking beside me . . . I continued walking with my backpack on my front (because that’s the ‘safest’ place for it) when a group of guys (obviously his) stepped out from a stall and surrounded me.

First it was just the usual jeering, but then it became more threatening in the tone of their voices, their comments, and their reaching for me and my backpack. While everything within me was trembling with fear, I kept my head high, stared them down, and spoke back at them with the same volume that they were using to taunt me.

There was a brief moment of thinking: “I’m in a market with people all around me, and no one is doing anything to help out a woman being taunted by a group of young men.” It was then that I realised, that apart from divine assistance, I was in this alone.

Then I dont know how (other than that divine assistance), but one of the guys in response to something I said, stepped back laughing, and that was my ‘gate of escape’ and I ran for it!

Story two: I was walking along a street, with shop fronts on my left, and fruit and vegetable market vendors lined the curb on my right. A guy started walking along beside me, making loud intimidating comments. I was ignoring him, hoping that if I didnt respond, then he’d give up.

Then came a voice, loud and clear, a real serious ‘you better listen to me’ voice and I turned to see an African Mama behind her stall yelling something, that made him turn and walk away, leaving me alone.

I went and thanked that woman for having the courage to speak up, because without her voice, who knows how that situation may or may not have played out.

And so we all have a choice,
And we make that with our voice.

That woman changed my situation,
Through her verbal declaration.

She chose to stand in authority.
Looking out for me – a minority.

And so I’m reminded to be on the look out?
For when someone else needs a way out!

Racism: prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalised. (www.lexico.com)

And so just as that African woman in her own country was able to influence one of her own to stop his behaviour, so too as an Australian in my own country, I have the same power by way of using my voice, to influence such behaviour towards anyone, minority or not.

I am well aware that as a white Australian I have not experienced racism to the degree that other cultures have. But such experiences (as in the above stories) when I am a minority in another country, have helped me to have a small insight in to how it feels to experience such treatment because of my colour, and also how it feels to be alone in that, and rescued from that.

And so out of that, here’s a piece I wrote a few weeks ago:

Sometimes we look without seeing it.
And sometimes we see without looking for it.

Sometimes we dont like what we see.
And so we turn our head to avert our look.

For we wont see
If we dont look.

Or maybe its a matter of listening & hearing.
Comments & conversations that resonate with slandering.

When we dont agree,
with what we hear.

But we turn away,
with a closed ear.

Listen to hear,
the words that are spoken.

Extend your ear,
to correct thoughts that are broken.

BECAUSE

Words from the mouth
BEGIN AS
Thoughts in the mind
.

Thoughts gone south
LEAD TO
Humanity bein’ unkind.

Look that you might see.
And when you see
Continue to look . . .

Search every nook.

Be it found within you.
Or seen in another.
Challenge it & change it!
Stand up for each other.

And so:
I’m challenged to look within myself.
My mind, my heart, my words and behaviours.
To see is there anything sitting on my inner shelf.

While ignorance is no excuse,
Arrogance is a form of abuse.

Connecting in Isolation

I wrote the piece below when we first went in to ‘iso.’
I share it because I can’t be the only one who has struggled? In fact, I know I’m not!
And so I’m hopeful that in sharing my thoughts and challenges, it may well help someone else.
If not, that’s okay too . . .

For me (and maybe for you too) ‘iso’ has been a time of learning how to navigate my virtual spaces. And even my ‘actual’ spaces as I restrain from the physical ribbing that goes along with my usual banter and in person interaction. So, for the virtual challenge:
Where do I ‘feel’ comfortable contributing?
Where do I ‘feel’ seen and heard?
Where do I ‘feel’ invisible?
Where do I ‘feel’ overwhelmed?
And yet it shouldn’t be about feelings, because feelings can be misguided, fleeting, and based on one’s perception.
But it is about acknowledging those feelings, so that I can learn from them, and make the necessary adjustments and corrections, to build a stronger, better me.
It is about creating a ‘healthy space’ for myself: not to be selfish, but to self care.
Because it’s from that ‘healthy space’ that I can be better, and do better, in my reaching out to help others. So . . .

When being online connected
leaves you feeling more disconnected.
When Covid isolation
highlights your solo situation.

When you dont usually hug just anybody,
but today you’d love a hug from somebody.
When you choose to disconnect,
in order to self-protect.

And you tell yourself:
Points of connection
ARE NOT
Points of validation.

You are not the value of
likes, comments, or shares.
You are not the value of
video chats, calls, or text.

You are not the value of
receiving all of these,
receiving none of these,
or any amount in between of these.

And you know it’s true
Times of isolation
make way for
internal reflection.

Your value cannot change,
it is who you are within.
But your value does have range,
in how much you share it out.

So dont withdraw, pull back, retract,
but spread it wide and send it far.
You just dont know who you impact,
when you ‘step out’ as who you are!

#MakeThatCallSendThatText
#BeProactive
#TakeTheInitiative


Core Strength!

Our physical strength
is determined by
Our core strength.

Strong Core muscles:
Give a sturdy central link.
Enhance balance and stability.
Prevent falls and injuries.
Underpinning much of what we do.
As they enable greater output from
our core, our leg & our arm muscles.

In this time of isolation
I’m challenged to look at
And to strengthen:
My cognitive core
(my thoughts and what I read).
My emotional core
(my feelings and where they lead).
My spiritual core
(through faith and prayer, how much I intercede).

Building on
a sturdy centred link spiritually.
Focusing on
cognitive balance and stability.
Aiming to
prevent emotional ‘falls’ and ‘injuries.’

They’re underpinning what I do.
Enabling greater output.
As I step out (with my feet)
To reach out (with my hands)
To help and support others.

Let’s work on our holistic core strength.
For it determines how we stand:
Physically.
Spiritually.
Cognitively.
Emotionally.
Relationally.
All of which determines our ripple effect . . .

#CoreCommitment !
#CommitmentToTheCore !

The 5 Love Languages

1) Words of Affirmation
2) Gifts
3) Quality Time
4) Acts of Service
5) Physical Touch

In this time of isolation:
Many of us have lost number 5
And numbers 1 to 4 are surely depleted
Due to our lack of social life.

So find another way:
Numbers 1 and 2
Send a card, a gift,
Do whatever you can do.

For both numbers 3 and 4
Call for a chat,
Or leave a treat at their door.

#LoveIsNotLikeVegemite
#DontBeSpreadingItThin
#LoveNeedsToBeLikePuddingWithTheTrifecta
#TheTrifectaBeingCustardCreamANDIcecream
#LavishWithLove

Living according to ‘ACE’

I’d forgotten about this piece (the image below) that I wrote a few months back. But on the morning of Saturday April the 4th I was reminded of it in light of this current time we are in, and the limited ‘spaces’ and ‘places’ that we now have.

Fully EMBRACE:
What does it mean to fully embrace?
It’s an expression of being ‘ALL IN‘ and ‘FULLY THERE.’
How do we know if we are fully embracing somthing, or even someone?
Because we are not rushing to leave.
We’ve wrapped ourselves around it / them, and we’re not letting go.

The SPACE that you have:
As the person you are, with the gifts, abilities, personality and traits that make you you, connecting you to the individiuals / circles that you ‘mix’ with.
Even in this time of social distancing, we still have our ‘spaces’ with those people, in those circles. It’s just not in the same physical place anymore.
And so I was challenged, how am I ‘showing up’ in those circles, to occupy my space, to bring the me that is me?

In the PLACE where you are:
Wherever that may be: at home or at work (which for many is now also at home).
In as recent times as January 2019BC (BeforeCovid19), being in the same physical place together, we still each occupied our own space (I dont mean in terms of physical stature, but in our personality and humour) and what that brings to that circle.

With the GRACE that you know:
as people are stressed and stretched beyond their usual capacity, we are called to show even more grace. When we fully embrace (give a virtual hug) to the space we have been given in their world, by way of where God has placed us. Then that level of grace (that we know we have received) is what we are called to give.

For this RACE that you run:
More now than ever, the world stands united – A P A R T. All because of a virus. It’s definitely not the race that we thought we would be running. But there’s a race that is ALWAYS on, as we run in pursuit of wholeness: cognitive, emotional, physical and spiritual.

1 Corithians Chapter 9 Verse 24:
(NKJ – New King James Version) Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize. Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
(HP Version) Run your race, with a full embrace of grace, through every space and place.

#WeEachHaveOurOwnRaceToRunWithOurOwnPrizeToWin

#RunToWinYourRaceForYouThatYouWouldThenBeAbleToLightTheWayForOthers


seek.com

SEEK: The desire to obtain or achieve.

As we truly SEEK
We looK to SEE.

When what was hope.
Becomes our reality!

There is coming a season:

You may not know how?
Just that ‘things’ are as they be!

So S – T – R – E – T – C – H your faith
And trust in Me.

As you keep on looking
With a desire to see.

In those places
There you’ll find Me.

I’m not limited by your reason!
– God

Just as this plant grows out between the bricks in a hard place.
Developing stronger roots, all the better to ‘hang in there’ with.
God is growing us through isolation and its hard space.
Strengthening our core, to build a more resilient pith.
seek.God

A little encouragement . . .

I have tried for hours to put words to this image.
But I’m stuck!
Nothing I write captures what I’m trying to say . . .
So I’ll just tell you how it happened . . .

After a day of reading and hearing too much social media.
In a moment of angst, I said to God:
“I need something here and now!”
And this was the immediate response to my callout!

‘Wisdom & Faith’ is the ‘mantra’ of my church.
Because that is all we can do:
Use wisdom in order to flatten the curve.
Apply faith & prayer, from this we will emerge!

Be encouraged as I was at that time,
and continue to be through this time!

A reason, a season, or . . .

Today (Friday February 7th) as I was leaving work, contemplating my last day here (having spent the last 6 months working as a casual employee), before commencing my new permanent place of work next week, I consoled myself with a variation of an old quote:

from
‘Friends are for a reason, a season, or a lifetime’
to
‘Everything happens for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.’

I thought about all the reasons and seasons I’ve been through in this place, and in other workplaces, but especially here as it’s been such a huge part of my lifetime. When I’ve ‘stepped out’ to travel to Africa, or to a new place of employment, ‘this place’ has been somewhere I could come back to, helping me to find my feet again.

It’s the place where I am known. The place where I grew up. The place that taught me everything I know. With all its politics and varied relationships, some close and others completely indifferent, this is another version of what I would call ‘family.’ So while it ‘feels like’ I’m leaving, I’m not. What I am leaving, is my comfort zone.

For all the years I’ve known this saying, today as I thought of moving to my new place of employment and how everything happens for a reason, a season, or a lifetime I heard this response: Could it be for a season, with a reason, for a lifeline?

Let me tell you a story about ‘Naamah’ and ‘Sarah’:

Back in November last year (2019) I briefly met my new neighbours Naamah and Boris as I was rushing out and they were coming home (our doors are side by side in our apartment building). Naamah said “We should organise tea.” But then due to a miscommunication it didn’t happen and so a few weeks later I decided to follow it up. Because I’m naturally shy, quiet and awkward, I admit that my follow up was prompted by a ‘random act of kindness’ challenge through a women’s group I’m part of within my church circle. And so it was a couple of weeks later Naamah and I met for tea, and had a great afternoon getting to know each other.

It was a week or two after that in December, that Naamah’s Aunt Sarah arrived from their home country to visit for a 6 week holiday. It was on a Sunday afternoon, Naamah asked if we could go for lunch. While we were at lunch chatting about so many things and the importance of having hobbies outside of work, Aunt Sarah asked about my hobbies. And so I told them about my writing, the 3 collaborative books I’ve written, and a brief outline of each.

Aunt Sarah was intrigued and wanted to know more about my writing, but in particular about my first chapter. A book titled Spiritual Conversations, in which my chapter is titled: A raw conversation with God. And so I delved deeper into that chapter, and my story behind it.

While telling my story, feeling choked up as I spoke (because there are parts of it that I still ‘feel’ in remembering the pain), I noticed Naamah smiling from ear to ear, and yet I didnt understand why. But then as I looked at Aunt Sarah, to see her crying, reaching in her handbag for a tissue, I would soon come to know exactly how Naamah’s smiling and Aunt Sarah’s crying was all connected to my story.

Seven months earlier (that’s about May 2019) Aunt Sarah at the age of 40, single, and no children, had a hysterectomy for the condition of uterine fibroids and the resulting anaemia. In struggling to come to terms with it all, she then had another condition to deal with: the diagnosis of depression.

‘Funny’ isn’t it . . . that Aunt Sarah’s story in May 2019, was exactly my story in May 2016 . . . just 3 years earlier, when I was 45. And so while Aunt Sarah spoke of coming to Australia to forget about her situation. I wondered, could it be that God brought Aunt Sarah to Australia, to help her in her situation? And so I love the quote below:

It’s scary to be vulnerable. But when we are (in a safe and healthy place to do so) it has the power to transform what was our pain, into someone else’s gain. While it may be a selfish reason, I like that this in turn gives a sense of purpose to my pain.

And so . . . if God can organise a woman living in another country on the other side of the world (that shares my exact story) to visit her niece, my next door neighbour (who I only just met), that I would then have opportunity to share my story and give her a copy of my book, so that maybe it can help her on her journey . . . could this then have been a 6 week season, with a hysterectomy reason, to be a lifeline for Aunt Sarah as she ‘navigates’ depression?

Who have you been a ‘lifeline’ for today?
Maybe you dont even know it!

And as for your workplace and mine, what if:
It’s not about what we ‘do’ in our place of employment.
But about who we ‘be’ in our place of deployment.
Employed? and/or Deployed?
Our employer employs us for our skills.
But God deploys us for our gifts!

In this current corona crisis, as many of my fellow nurses in casual employment are out of work, I feel like my new permanent workplace is my lifeline.
I feel for all who have lost their employment in this time. But I hope if you are reading this, that you find encouragement in it somehow.

#GodArrangesOurConnectionsLocalAndInternational
#ItIsNotAboutWhatWeDoItIsAboutWhoWeBe

#Deployed
#TheDictionarySaysForcesWereDeployedAtStrategicLocations
#YouAreAForceStrategicallyDeployedAtYourLocation
#BeTheForceYouWereDeployedFor

When the ladder speaks . . .

As I contemplate what to write about . . . I thought I had a piece . . . and then I got this . . .

As I woke up this morning contemplating everything I had to do today . . . I thought of the clothes I need to take somewhere to donate. And my eyes caught the jacket still hanging on my ladder. Some people have a chair, but I have an old ladder that I hang my clothes on at the end of the day, when suitable for another wear.

I looked at that brown fleecy lined jacket, contemplating how long it had hung there for . . . since the last time that I wore it . . . which was some months back. Then I remembered that at that time of wearing the jacket, I had discovered it had become too tight for me in the arms, thereby limiting my ability to move. And so now I find myself wondering . . . “Why is it still hanging there?” Because I really like it! And I wish I hadn’t outgrown it, but I have. The truth is, it’s still hanging there because I like it so much that there’s a part of me that really hopes that one day it will fit me again, and so I dont want to let it go.

Then while contemplating that jacket hanging on my ladder, I heard the question: “So what’s hanging on the ladder of your heart?” While I had a concept of what ‘the ladder of your heart’ might mean, I couldn’t fully grasp it, so I looked up the dictionary definition of the word: ladder.

2) a piece of equipment consisting of a series of bars or steps between two upright lengths of wood, metal or rope, used for climbing up or down something.

And so I contemplate . . . in all areas of my life: What have I outgrown? Even though I might still really like it? Have I let go of it? If not, then why not? Am I hoping it will one day fit me again? Maybe it’s not a piece of clothing? It could be a mindset or a belief that needs to change? It could be a connection/friendship/relationship? Or it could be a space and/or a place I am trying to fit in to?

But as with my jacket, if it is restricting me, limiting me in some way, why then would I want to, much less choose to, have that ‘thing’ hanging on the ladder of my heart? I was made to be who I am, without restriction, without limitation, so to be hanging on to any ‘thing’ that restricts and limits me is nothing other than self-sabotage. And why would I want to do that? Fear? Fear of what? Fear of failure? Or is it fear of success?

So going back to the ‘ladder’ definition: two upright lengths of wood, metal or rope: different materials with very different strengths, different weight capacities, and thus very different purposes. Yet they can serve their purpose together to some degree: as in a rope ladder with wooden steps. But regardless of what and how the materials are used, it is the ‘two upright lengths’ that must be stronger as they serve to support the ‘series of bars or steps’ for the climber to climb.

In different aspects of our lives, we are any one of these ‘materials’ and any one part of the ladder. For example in any one of my connections/friendships/relationships I may be an ‘upright length’ of support, or I may be a ‘step or a bar’ needing support from my ‘upright lengths’ around me. Or as in my new workplace, I feel more like the ‘climber’ utilising the ‘ladder’ (that is my work colleagues) for their knowledge as I ‘climb’ my way into a new workspace, to see if and where I fit.

Whether we are an ‘upright length’, a ‘bar or a step in a series of’, or a climber looking to climb, what is important is that over and above how much we ‘like it’ or ‘want it to fit’, we must first know the strength that we have, our capacity to hold, and the purpose of that which we carry in and through the climb. If it’s beyond our strength, outside our capacity, or not in line with our purpose, then it’s not a good fit. So . . . much like my jacket . . . dont leave it hanging there . . . hoping one day it might be a good fit. But instead acknowledge it for what it is, even if you wish it wasn’t . . . and as per the song in the movie Frozen: Let it go!

To conclude, I see two concepts within my thoughts here:

  1. the jacket and its representation of ‘things’ we allow to ‘hang on’ and
  2. knowing who I am in or on the ladder: an upright length, a step, or climbing.

I believe when we don’t, won’t or can’t “Let it go!” that another definition of ‘ladder’ enters our world:

2) a vertical strip of unravelled fabric in tights or stockings.

Our not ‘letting go’ leads to us becoming ‘unravelled’ in who we are, and so we do ourselves an injustice to who we are as a person in: our strength, our capacity, and our purpose.

So . . . regardless of those fears . . . whatever they might be. . . whatever you are hanging on to that is restricting you, or limiting you in any way . . . “Let it go!” and just be who you are in knowing the strength that you have, the capacity that you hold, and the purpose that you carry.

A Christmas Story

It must be 21 years ago that 3 friends: Naomi, Victoria and I each made our own Nativity set.

At the time Naomi was working in a pottery place when she had the idea. So having purchased the unfired pieces, painted them, and then sent them off with Naomi to be fired in the kiln, we waited with anticipation for their return.

I remember Naomi saying that somehow in the process of being in the kiln, one of my pieces had been damaged: Joseph’s hand had been broken, but she thought it would be okay. As for me, I wondered how broken? Do I need a new Joseph?

On that day when we each got our Nativity pieces back, I examined Joseph to find that on his left hand (with his outstretched arm) he’d lost the top of his fingers. But thankfully I didn’t need a new Joseph, with a bit of paint, I could still use him in my Nativity, to represent as the father of baby Jesus.

In thinking deeper about this, I see how this story reflects our own life, or at least mine for sure!

We have a picture of how our life will be, and we paint it as so, but then come the fires of life: the death of a parent as a young child, bullied at school, divorce, a hysterectomy, a diagnosis of depression, unhealthy life choices, and loss of friendships, to name some of my own ‘broken fingers.’

In the midst of each of these fires, I have wondered if I was:
Too broken to be repaired.
Too broken to ever be me again.
Too broken to represent my Father.
To feel so broken, that I should just be replaced with someone else.

But then:
While I couldn’t give Joseph back his fingers, I saw the way to ‘repair’ what remained of his broken fingers. And with a touch of paint you’d never know the injury he encountered while going through the fire (unless you look closely to see his short, stumpy hand).

And this has been my experience also:
While there are some things I just can’t get back, God saw the way to ‘repairing’ my broken parts. With His touch of love on those areas, He gave me hope that He will not replace me with someone else, but instead repair me so that (in spite of all I’ve been through in the fires of life), I can be confident in who I am. And so I represent Him, the One who got me there – my Father.

The Christmas season stirs up different emotions for different people for different reasons. But if you’re in a difficult place, know that no matter how bad it is:
Despite what you think, you ARE NOT replaceable!
Despite what you feel, your repair is possible.
And even if you can’t see it now, you can be confident in who you are, because I know the One who can get you there.

Merry Christmas as you celebrate with family and friends on this day, the date designated as the birthday of Jesus.