Day 29 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

Glancing back on last year’s journal entries around this same time reminded me of some things.  I was very sick with a mosquito borne virus that last for weeks.  It affected my joints and I could not move about easily for some time.  I contracted it soon after I returned from a wonderful visit with my daughter in Canada, and a conference in Texas, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Moms in Prayer International, with women from all over the world present who pray for their children and schools.

A month before that, in early September, I shared my testimony at a Christian Women’s Club function.  I had been asked months before to speak at this function and although I was nervous about it I knew it was the right timing.  I shared details of my depression and how God found me in my darkest place.  It encouraged many people.  I promised that 2015 would be when I would start writing for myself and to help others.  Three months shy of the end of 2015 and I have begun to fulfill my promise.   I finally believe in myself that I am a writer, that I can do it.

God has set things in motion.  This #write31days challenge in October has given me the head start God knew I needed.  He also showed me which online writing course to do.  And that is helping me with memoir and essay techniques.  I want to get my story out there and then start writing about how God has been working and answering all my prayers.  It is very exciting, this journey I am on, and seeing God’s hand on every little thing.  Electronically I have connected with lots of other writers, and received and offered encouragement, and I am learning a lot.  I have also been supported on so many levels.  When I think a post was mediocre I receive a heartfelt post or email of encouragement.  And when I do not get any comments or views, I am just fine.

I am so thankful!  There’s just one thing …  When I am writing/thinking at the computer I chew my nails, and my habit has returned, when I thought I had overcome it for good! Another prayer to put on my strategic list.  Well, we can’t be perfect in everything!

Day 29 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

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Day 28 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

I marvel at how God puts people in our midst to help us in our journeys, like angels, for the saints that we all are.

About a year after I left my hotel job of 15 years, I re-entered the job market as a temporary secretary for a leading auto company, filling in for someone who was on vacation.  I landed in the Parts Department, alongside an amazing woman who not only patiently showed me the ropes, and I needed to be shown more than once, but i got to see close up her beautiful walk with Jesus.  And how it blessed me!

She had worship music playing softly in the background of the small office.  She treated everyone she came into contact with kindly and she had a caring affection for the staff members.  She taught me to file a little every day, or it became too huge to want to handle.  She showed me how to handle with diplomacy the employees who came to us with their urgent orders to type and send the emails and faxes which was part of our job to do.  She taught me the importance of worship and prayer.  I learnt authenticity by just being around her.  One of the few times that I saw her angry was when we overheard some men speaking excitedly outside the window, and many expletives were being used.  She boldly opened the window and spoke severely to the men, telling them that the company did not tolerate language like that being used on the premises.  Her actions spoke for themselves, and it was not surprising that she was a sign language expert.  She was not afraid of speaking out and she was highly respected by the entire staff.  We developed a close friendship that carries on to this day.

The company had a weekly prayer time on Wednesday lunch time for about 15 minutes, which a few people attended.  Of course she was one of them, and I went with her.  They always sang a song before beginning to pray.  Once I was asked to suggest a song.  I couldn’t think of one, I was such a ‘baby Christian’; and then I remembered my favorite hymn from my school days, ‘All things bright and beautiful, All Creatures great and small, All things wide and wonderful, The Lord God made them all’ …   I knew the words by heart.  I came to look forward to that prayer time.

In all I spent about 8 weeks at the auto company, coming back when there was an absence, and it was a great and very enjoyable experience for me.  It was exactly where I was meant to be for that period in my life, increasing my confidence and helping me to step out in my faith.  I am thankful that God led me there, his timing is always perfect.

Day 28 of Prison Break of Thoughts

Day 27 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

I know someone whose voice used to be low, guarded, untrusting, fearful. There was tightness, tension in her vocal chords, the fear of not getting the words out right, or stumbling over them, of not saying what she means or wants to say, not saying anything significant enough.

All of that is safely in the past.  And I am not going back there again.  There will be a time when I can say everything I truly want to say with no hesitation, no worry of how it will be received.

In the meantime, I am happy where I am.  I can say that these almost 31 days of inner release have been just that.  The prison door is open.  And the encouragement I have got has spurred me on, kept me from doubting, connecting with stories of other writers’ fears  … Writing, what I have always wanted to do, I am doing, unreservedly, committed and secure in using the keyboard for me, to stir up memories, to shine a light in some corner of the world.  For I know in my corner a light is shining brightly, smiling, laughing, yet still waiting for the tear that I know will eventually come.

I will continue on, running the race that has been set for me.  I have much more to share, much more you need to know.

Today is Day 27 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

Day 26 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

May my writing not become an idol, not be the first thing I go to, not take the place of my relationship with God.

There have been many times in my journey with God that I have been distant and practically ignored him.  If it were not for my prayer group and church support who walked alongside me, sharing each others struggles and hearing the words of God through them, things would be very different.  He is on my mind, he is in me, but why do I put him last instead of first?  It would be much easier to do it the right way round. The bombardment of everyday life – my flesh is stubborn and I go my own way, but eventually I am brought back to him, one way or another.

What a patient God we serve! He is understanding and knows our hearts, he knows what we go through.  He has lived it too.  He knows me best, so I need to keep in step with him.

As I go through my journals over the last 18 years I see a pattern of distance and then coming back, always coming back to the Father.  Knowing who I am, secure in Christ, has helped me, and the teachings of grace at church, reinforced in a small group where questions come up and are rehashed until the truth sinks in.

I often feel like Gideon in the Bible.  He was weak and undermined himself, mediocre, dull.  Until God plucked him out of his hiding place.  Same with me – he found me and changed me, but it didn’t happen overnight, and it is still going on.  I do have a healthier view and I am often reminded of how God feels about me.  But the world does bring that reality out of focus at times.  That’s when I have to readjust my mirror and get back to the right thinking again.  Knowing I am not condemned, that I am highly favored, valued and loved beyond measure, cared for and desired by the King of the universe to be in relationship with!

We have all been wired that way, for relationship with our Father.

Extract from a journal a few years past, a good day:

Father, What a blessing to be out here in my special place, the tree house, to be with you, enjoy you and share with you.  I am truly blessed.  You have done real wonders in my life, but whey should I be amazed – you are God! I don’t know why I don’t do this more often, it is my resting place, doing what I love, but yet I let other things take precedence.  I hear the beautiful song of your birds, I see the greenery, the flowers, I hear the wind, gently blowing, the rain getting ready to fall, but uncertain.

This is Day 26 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release that is part of the #write31days challenge.

Day 25 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

My mum told me that I came into this world very quickly, she got to the hospital just in time.  I’m glad I didn’t give her a hard labor.

My mum is very clever.  She perseveres at a task and always gets it done well.  She has mastered growing orchids and bromeliads, upholstery, curtain-making, dress-making, tapestry, jewelery making, difficult puzzles, she is an avid reader, a leaking roof expert and much more.  And to top it off, she is a techie, keeping up to date with the latest computer technology, reading and researching, working out how to use them.

When we were young, months before our school fairs, she would spend hours making stuffed animals, the Winnie The Pooh characters and whatever else was ‘in’ at the time, to sell at the fair.  She would make lots of beautiful and fun things for that Creations stall, including large puppets.  She spent many hours on her projects, and they were always done to perfection.  Out of her four daughters I inherited her sewing gift, but I tended to give up easily if I couldn’t get something done, or go to my Mum for help!  We got our first VHS video machine just before I became a teenager, and we enjoyed watching many films and documentaries together.

As we got older we would go on shopping trips together and she would be so patient as we tromped through stores looking for clothes.  Sharing a hotel room, we had many laughs and stories shared. We tired her out, and now those days are fewer.  Travelling is made so much harder these days.

My mum has always been strong and independent, capable, full of common sense.  She loves chocolate and egg plant, like me, and tomatoes, and all the things that are bad if you have arthritis.  We both have our various stages of it.  We are different in a lot of ways but our love runs deep.  She has always put her children and husband first, and herself last.  She always looked out for me, and I love the one on one time we have had and still have together.

She has seen the world change over the years, and she often doesn’t like what she sees.  Now are the times to record the memories and pass them on to her 9 grandchildren.  I want to spend time doing that with her.

Day 25 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

Day 24 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

My church meets in a school auditorium on Sunday mornings.  We are a small group, sometimes 25, sometimes 50, occasionally more.  The warmth and hugs that you come away with cannot be beaten. Grace is taught here, in a big way.

I was in a traditional church this week, to attend my two nieces Confirmation.  I was sitting in a pew of the oldest church in Barbados alongside family members and it was a good feeling.

In my very young days I remember going to the school chapel and thinking of how old it was.  Some of the kneeling benches were broken and it had a musty, ‘churchy’ smell, not a bad smell, an expected scent that came with the territory.  I would spend a lot of time staring at the cross, it was very large, Jesus was nailed to it. I would stare into his face and try to imagine how he must have felt, finding it hard to fathom that this massive sacrifice was for me, and mankind.

The standing and sitting. singing, reading, reciting, always kept me from day dreaming for long.  I always felt secure in church, never self-conscious, except walking up for communion, imagining all eyes were on me.  I loved the stained glass windows and the thick, sometimes crumbling stone walls, the high rafter ceilings, the organ music, the plaques, the marble engraved tombs.  The churches I attended during my school time in the UK were grander and larger, although still Anglican.  I attended confirmation classes for a few months before getting confirmed at one of the nearby churches at aged 14. Today, the preparation time for confirmation is up to a year or more.  My young nieces were confirmed alongside other young, middle aged and elderly people.  I was honoured to be a part of it.

I enjoy the occasional return to traditional.  Yet I find myself still yearning for my familiar and authentic place, the church without the fancy windows and organ music, in fact sometimes the music doesn’t work at all, but  I am known and loved and accepted, I know and feel Jesus there.    That makes me happy.

Day 24 of the series Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

Day 23 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

I have talked about swimming with Jesus in Day 17 of this blog series.

I want to talk now about how I learnt to scuba dive, overcoming a fear of drowning in my mask.  I was on a cruise and my son and I decided to take the scuba diving pool lesson before going out in the ocean for a real dive.  Neither my son, then aged 11, or myself had dived before.  We had a fairly straightforward lesson in the pool.  My son took every detail in while I was a little slower at grasping the techniques, and what all the equipment did, but we were set up to join a dive group that afternoon.

We had our dive gear on and the dive instructor gave his talk about what we were to do, jumping in, grasping the boat rope connected to the anchor with our hands, crossing them over until we reached the correct depth.  I never got that far.  When it was my turn to jump in, my mask shifted.  I began the descent after the other divers, but when I was below the water a mere few feet, my whole mask was full of water.  I panicked, not remembering how to clear my mask.  One of the dive assistants tried to show me but I only wanted to resurface, which I did, in a hurry, choking and swallowing what seemed like a gallon of water.  I was asked if I wanted to go back down, but I had had enough.  It would be a few years before I would try that stunt again.  Meanwhile, my son was well on his way to moving, walking and living underwater.  He now is about to do his instructor training and then he will be fully qualified to teach.

I laid to rest my dream to scuba dive and join my son in some of his dives for a few years.  Then, I was told of a younger lady who was in the island for a few months and she wanted to do the beginners dive course and needed a companion.  I took the plunge.  The two of us had a very strict female instructor. She would get annoyed with us if we did not get a technique right.  We persevered, we were not naturals like my son was.  After a few weeks we were qualified, and could dive up to 60 feet.  It felt good to have succeeded.

I have done about 40 dives since then.  I continued learning, finding the bouancy to be the hardest thing to control.  On a few occasions I found myself drifting up to the surface on my own.  When I dived with my son he would be very careful with me and on a number of occasions he had to keep me down, and give me more weights.  One time my equipment was faulty during a dive, and I had to be given a new tank, 60 feet under.  I was not afraid, the sea is a place of relaxation for me.  A place where burdens are left behind.  Even the heavy tank on my back is not felt, it is weightless in the water.

He gave me a funny “Dan’s Diving” voucher for my last birthday to take me to whichever dive site I wanted to go.  I relished the hour below the sea with my 180 pound, 6 foot tall, Jacques Cousteau son, swimming together, as equals, among the fish and coral, in and out of shipwrecks, standing and lying on the white sand 40 to 60 feet below.  Not like previous times, he was finally at ease with me, happy with my diving, and not having to report to his dad that he had to save me from something.  It was my highlight of the 3 months of summer that he was home.

Today is Day 23 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

Day 22 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

My only girl … my green eyed, blond haired girl – How I love her and owe so much to her.  Induced into this world, knowing that it was better being cocooned inside for as long as possible, rather than out in the wide world, she was smart from the word go,  She knew what she wanted and got it.  It was like we had this perfect structure of communication without words.  I wish it was the same 18 years on, but sadly I do not gain full marks in communication now.

I was mostly a stay at home mom which suited her perfectly.  Her love language is quality time.  Mine isn’t.  I remember playing dolls with her, and helping her feed stuffed animals all in a row, reading to them, and her.  I did whatever I was instructed to do and I was happy.  Sometimes I needed time for myself and this did not always sit well.  She liked to have someone around with her, and preferred that it was me.  Her brother, 4 years her senior, was a great playmate and very patient with her, until the sibling fighting stage started.  She made lots of friends from early, knowing that she needed them. She is fiercely loyal.

My only girl loved the simple things, like the Chefette playground, dancing and music, shopping, Cattlewash holidays, pool parties, pasta, cookies ‘n cream icecream.  She always talked about what party she would have months before her birthday came around, sleepovers, her favourite.

We have enjoyed some trips together, just the two of us, and they were special memories, we want more…  I have my regrets, as parents do, that I did not spend as much quality time with her as I could have when she was young, and now it is too late.  But is it?  I don’t think so.  We make those moments together count now.  Whether it is sitting on the beach together while she sunbathes, or being nearby while a texting war is taking place. Or making lunch together, or watching Netflix, or helping her decide what to wear to the next outing, just talking, or lying down together … but not talking about when she would be leaving to go away again.

My only girl sets very high standards for herself.  Maybe she has picked up my being hard on myself and not always liking myself.  I wished I had portrayed a different picture so that she could value herself as the treasure that she is, that pearl of great price.  But I pray on, faithfully, and trusting that it will come as she journeys through life.  I hope she has picked up that with God in me I do see myself differently, special now, deeply loved and untarnished.

My girl gets upset when things don’t go the way she has planned.  It is hard for her to make a new way when plans change.  Yet she can navigate flawlessly through change in the electronic arena, and in other areas.  She has tremendous insight, and an amazing gift for writing; it seems so effortless for her to come up with a free flowing poem or an essay, or summary from a massive. complicated text.

She is my only girl, but she is her own person, and I must not find myself controlling her choices, but quietly listen and be gently guiding her, and continuing to pray that she will choose wisely.  She is not afraid of standing up for a friend, for stepping in when someone is being taken advantage of, even when it means she is labelled or unpopular. She is a true friend.   She is very courageous and she is strong, but tender hearted and sensitive.  She is unique, fearfully and wonderfully made.  I LOVE YOU, MY ONLY GIRL!

Today is Day 22 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of inner release

Day 21 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 days of inner release

Punishment, blame, having to ‘do my share’ or else …  ‘you get what you deserve’ mentality, self-inflicting, deserved pain … never quite making it.  I wrote those thoughts down a few years ago.  But they were not my thoughts, they trickle in from time to time, but it’s not the truth and thank God that when attacks come I can usually recognize the lies.

Seeing those words reminded me of an exercise we did in our women’s Bible study quite some time ago.  We wrote down all the things that hold us back, our burdens, and gave them to God, tearing them up and standing on a cliff overlooking the sea, holding them out, praying, before dropping them in the ocean.  I remember standing there for so long before I let them go that my arm started to ache. Everyone had gone inside to celebrate over lunch.  Why did I feel the need to punish myself even then? It was as though I was hanging around, to prove I could even help him, instead of leaving my burdens with God in peace.  It may have been a coincidence but I began having shoulder issues after that!   I have come a long way since then.  My arthritis lingers on …

My church just finished a 6 week study on Ephesians about being Fully Equipped.  It addressed and helped my thinking and how I express myself in many ways.  It is liberating to be reminded that “we are seated in heaven with Christ and that the issues we face are ‘no big deal’ when viewed from the perspective of eternity and Jesus living in us”.  We are so conditioned not to believe the truth about us, and having to succeed based on not letting others down.  Most good things come out of failure which is so foreign to this age of ‘make or break’.  As my good friend, Pam Coke-Hamilton, said in her speech about ‘failing spectacularly’ to the graduates of University of the West Indies last week, ‘it is when you experience that kind of failure that shakes your foundations that you also come to the end of yourself. And it is one of the best places to be.  Those are called defining moments, for friendships, your core beliefs, your identity and the essence of who you are.  In those moments …..with just you and God, you will realise that it is enough’.*  And it is enough, more than enough.  When God shows up he will take you higher than you’ve ever imagined.

I have been there, but I had to be at my lowest point where I could not fix, or be strong anymore, I had to let go and let God in, and when I did, my whole life changed.

*( for full speech go to  http://www.carib-export.com/go-change-your-world/)

Today is Day 21 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

Day 20 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release

I was looking back in my journals and found the last time I cried.  It was April 2013.  Our old family dog, a beautiful grey weimaraner cross, was riddled with arthritis, deaf and having difficulty controlling her bodily functions.  We had hung on to her for as long as we could, but we had to let her go.  She was a smart dog, and knew her time was near.  Sometimes, she would look at me as if trying to tell me she was in pain and she was tired.  My husband said goodbye to her before he went to work.  I drove to the vet with her.  I called my best friend and she insisted on meeting me there.  In the vet’s office I was told the inevitable – we could wait, but perhaps the time was now for her to be out of her pain. She had a good run, 15 years, but it did not make it any easier.  The tears started when I saw the look of pity in the vet’s eyes, then the soulful hazel canine eyes.  She understood and trusted me.  I hugged and kissed our family 4 legged friend, companion, that intelligent home protector, that fun, lively one with a perfect ridge down her back.  I couldn’t look back.  I could barely see as I paid the receptionist and went out to the car, sitting with my good friend for a long time.  I sobbed, briefly, and cried for longer.

I didn’t bottle those tears, but on reflection I should have.  But it’s okay, Jesus did.

When my son left for boarding school far away from home for the first time I did not cry saying goodbye to him. My eyes were damp and misty but not enough accumulating to fall.  His dad cried, but I was to cry later, back home in his room, missing him terribly.  At least I had my daughter still at home.  When she left, 4 years later, I also saved my tears for later, my throat ached and I choked but could not cry at the physical parting.  I am a slow reactor.  It’s hard when you want to release to have to wait for the tears.  The numbness lingers and the waiting can be very long.

Today is Day 20 of Prison Break of Thoughts – 31 Days of Inner Release, that I am writing for #write31days challenge.