Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Do you know what is on my mind?

Of course you don’t – unless you can read my mind.

And you can’t, any more than I can read yours.

That is why we need to find a way to COMMUNICATE that works between us.

As I struggle to come to terms with having breast cancer I have noticed you struggling too.

You want to know what is happening to me, what I am thinking and feeling, and what you can do to support me.

But how can you know unless I tell you?

And so I recognise I have a role to play in helping you to help me.

This blog has been my way of keeping in touch. Bit by bit I have learned the value of being open. And I really value the way so many have engaged with me through the blog.

So my advice to anyone who finds themselves going through some form of trauma or loss is not to isolate yourself. Find some way of keeping in touch with family and friends that works for you. Give out as much information as you feel comfortable to share, and be honest.

Make it as easy as you can for others to help you.

And always recognise that those who reach out to help you, will be dealing with their own problems at the same time. Maybe you can find strength and comfort by giving help as well as receiving it.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ


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If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.

But it is you, one like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked about among the worshipers.

How painful are the blows from a friend!

Want to know how you behave like a miserable comforter without meaning to be one?

Norman Wright tells us that we adopt three well-meaning but unhelpful behaviours when we support friends:

  • We have difficulty accepting bad news ourselves: This can be for lots of reasons (we may be overwhelmed with our own sorrows), but the result is the same. While we may say words of comfort, we physically distance ourselves from our friend who is hurting. Our friend will see this as us rejecting them and their problem.
  • We give advice that is not wanted or needed: We want to help and we can see some obvious ways forward for our friend, and so we tell them what they need to do. Our friend becomes a pupil as we adopt the role of their teacher. They will react in the variety of ways that children react to being told what to do – and with the added creativity gleaned over the years.
  • We overwhelm them with help: If we really, really care this is the trap for us. We smother them with kindness. Our friend becomes a child as we adopt the role of their parent. And we know how complex parent-child relationships can become. Sooner of later they will want to break free.

Can you see yourself in any of these behaviours?

Being aware that the patterns exist gives us a helpful starting point.

Being open in our communication and giving up the need to be in control, to be right or to fix things will take the pressure away from us all as we negotiate the maze of hurting emotions.

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Can this be true?

It has taken a while but we did it this evening – we watched the movie Sex and the City.

Sex and the City

This is thanks to Lisa who spoke about the film in her blogmy life by faith – and debated whether or not christian women would or should watch the movie.

The story is about 4 women looking for Labels and Love in New York. It dramatizes the challenges facing single women who are trying to balance personal ideals with professional careers.

Having listened to women talking about their lives for many years, this film is very relevant.

In a blaze of colour and wonderful outfits the movie  tells stories of friendship, faithfulness, communication, sex, marriage, disappointment, and forgiveness.

Marriage ruins everything, says Miranda as the lives of the four friends unfold.

Thank you, Lisa – I agree with you. The more christian women (and men) talk about this together the better.

How about it?

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Home early from my 8th treatment. The machine is working well – but this morning there was a malfunction in the team. I don’t know what had happened, but I sensed tension in the air.

I have been thinking a lot about conflict since I shared with you about one of the biggest disagreements between BC and me.

We used to have some deep and prolonged disputes that took days to work through. These usually came when there were other big changes happening in our lives, like adjusting to being parents. The strength of the emotions we felt made it difficult to think straight. And finding the words to express what we were thinking and feeling was even harder. Careless words could heap more misunderstanding into the cauldron. We needed time to understand ourselves before we could begin to unravel what was happening between us.

I remember recognising a pattern in these episodes. In the midst of the upset I began to see flashes of the aspects of BC that I love and value – his integrity, sense of humour, patience, generosity, faithfulness: his love for me and for our children. My heart ached but my discomfort would not settle – this was too important to ignore. We had to find a way through that worked for us both.

And we did.

And because we did, we have a depth of friendship and respect for each other that makes living together such a delight . . and disagreements much less common and much easier to sort out.

The trouble is that we are very alike and yet very different. But a strength we share is that we value each other and are committed to make our marriage work.

We have a friend who boasts she and her husband have never had an argument in their lives. When they disagree he goes into the garden and she stays in the house.  After a variable cooling down period they resume normal routine and nothing more is ever said.

Pretending it does not matter is a whitewash, not a solution. They tolerate rather than get to know one another.

J.M. Gottman is a psychologist who developed a model to predict which newlywed couples will remain married and which will divorce four to six years later. He claims that his model has 90% accuracy. Part of his theory states that there are four major emotional reactions that are destructive to a marriage

defensiveness stonewalling criticism and contempt

Among the four, contempt is the most damaging of all.

Contempt is about reckoning a person is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn. No wonder it is fatal to a relationship.

I reckon BC’s mother was ahead of her time in recognising the importance of cherishing one another. And I owe her a lot for nurturing such positive attributes in her son, my husband. 🙂

Have a look at this short video of Lucy and Charlie Brown and see if you recognise any damaging emotional reactions!

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How can a marriage endure?

When you have been married for over 30 years like BC and me, it comes as a shock to hear that Al and Tipper Gore have reached a “mutual and mutually supportive decision” to separate just after ‘celebrating’ their 40th anniversary.

Don’t get complacent – growing apart can take a long time!

Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?

My mother in law often spoke about the cherish part of the marriage vow – to love and to cherish. She interpreted this as being about treasuring one another, recognising each other’s inherent value.

This week I have been reading about Agape love:  . . . “to will the good of another”: it is not primarily an emotion. Love is a desire for the well-being of another, so much so that personal sacrifice would not stand in its way. (The Good and Beautiful God p 119)

This picture shows a Mayan Calendar. What makes it different from other calendars in existence in the world is that its various symbols represent the evolution of consciousness, rather than simply the passage of time. There is a spiritual dimension towards ‘enlightenment’.

I like the symbolism that small patterns contribute to the development of a bigger picture.

The small patterns of routine and behaviour that you repeat become part of the bigger picture of your marriage. As Aristotle said

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.

I used to think it was a strange idea to renew your marriage vows – but now I am not so sure.

The biggest row BC and I had spanned our silver wedding anniversary. Negotiating a positive outcome from that time of change gave us a strong foundation for the years ahead.

Maybe, before we celebrate each anniversary, we could revisit the vows we made and check the pattern of our habits. Are we growing apart or growing together? Then we really would have something to celebrate.

A simple enough pleasure, surely, to have breakfast alone with one’s husband, but how seldom married people achieve it.    Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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It is true – no matter how much we enjoy harmony in some relationships, in others we will have discord. And that can be difficult to handle.

The trouble is that so much of our interaction with others builds on what has happened in the past and what that means to us. At least 80% of our communication with others is unconscious. Our body language reflects the story that we have in our heads about each other. And the story in our head is built on our interpretation of past events. We believe that what we THINK is actually TRUE.

A typical example of this is the hospital receptionist I met last week who, before I opened my mouth, clearly lived by the belief that all patients are trouble. She was so conditioned to the story in her head that she could not see or hear me in the reality of the moment.

We recognise the pattern: ‘You always say that ‘. . . ‘You never do anything’  . . . ‘You are wrong / stupid / irritating / lazy . . .’

And so we slip into a pattern of thinking and behaving that escalates along the same path each time.

No surprise that we get the same outcome – friction.

Albert Einstein said

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

So how can we break the patterns and begin to get different results in our relationships?

Paul spells out some really practical advice in his letter to the Philippians.

Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized.

. . . you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Mahatma Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see”.  Break the pattern. Write down three positive things about the person you have the biggest problems with – the best not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly, things to praise, not things to curse. Meditate on them.

As you change the way you think about the person you will find you can change the way you behave towards them. The pattern is broken and your relationship can begin to heal.

How interesting that the solution lies within our own grasp!

And the outcome:

a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.

Can you believe it . . .  and do you want it . . . ?

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Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

'Harmony' by Charlotte Segal

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

We travelled 1000 miles by car over the weekend to celebrate our nephew’s wedding. 4 generations together.

Great Grandpa chose this scripture from Philippians 4:4-9, to be read by his grand-daughter for her brother. She read form Grannie’s bible.

Grannie died last June.

6 great-grandchildren, age 4 and under, brought their special sense of life to the wedding feast.

Grannie and Grandpa prayed for us all regularly throughout all the ups and downs of life. Always making it clear they were on our side, working with us, not against us – the richest inheritance anyone could receive.

We are the same family and yet all very different. The beauty of the weekend was in the sense of belonging we felt together. We rejoice in the love we share for one another and acknowledge our individual responsibility to put into practice the things we learned, heard, saw and realised.

Harmony is a complex thing that emerges and is sustained by positive effort.

As you reflect on this, you can listen to amazing harmonies here. This is for you, Phil – I enjoyed our chat together 🙂

And, as we listen, maybe God has something to say to us about what we can do to sustain harmony in our families throughout the generations . . .

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