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May Beagle: New Still Life, Self-Care = Self-ish? & Surviving Spiritual Abuse

Dearest friends,

What a wonderful community this is, I love getting your emails each month and hearing your feedback, we are journeying together indeed and often seem to be on parallel paths.


Many thoughts, many things this month. My two chaps were away for 3 1/2 weeks leaving Zoe and I to enjoy immense girl-time. It's good to have them back and we had a sweet reunion but now find ourselves navigating the jet-lag disruptions, I think I'm having the strangest dream then realise as I half wake that someone is toasting hot cross buns at 3am! Hubby also got food poisoning from chicken on the plane meal. It's was a rough re-entry but we're back on track this week.


Zoe's film has been shot, I've shared pics towards the end, she's now working hard on other projects which will answer the next steps she could take. I have a few metaphorical horses which need herding in the coming months, opportunities. I've been offered a place to study theology from October but not sure if that can happen yet. I have a book proposition to outline which I've been mulling for the past 18 months but I also want to talk about my healing from spiritual abuse story and a way to write and publish that. I may pause the Beagle next month, we will see.


As I say, many thoughts. Do you ever feel like everything is in limbo yet all things are possible but nothing seems clear 🙋🏼‍♀️


Some thoughts today on 'self-care'

I still remember my back popping the day I held chubby little 3yo Jonathan on my hip. That was 14 years ago. I've lived with that back issue all these years. I'm just now starting to treat it properly and only because my hand was forced by further injury before Christmas. I've put it off for so long and even today when the consultant was asking if I'd like to go ahead with the MRI I could hear that internal voice saying, "Don't make a fuss, just decline and get on with your day". It all seemed too time consuming and to be honest, I don't always value myself as worthy of such attention. There are people worse off I tell myself.


I'm a mum, I get it. We give everything and then some. We love our children, we lay down our wants, desires and needs so that they can have the best of life and the best of us. We know we should take care of ourselves but who has the time, or money for that matter! If I have to choose between piano lessons for the kids and getting my teeth checked, guess which wins out. Besides, we're fine we tell ourselves, we can limp on, take a pill, get to it when things are easier. But life has a funny pattern of never getting 'easier', it seems in fact to grow more fruitful and more demanding. But prevention really is better than cure and I know it's far better to maintain a temple than restore a ruin.


I'm 52 and my body is simply not the same, show of hands? I also have chronic lymphopenia following a virus in 2018 and have come a long way to regaining my immunity strength but I still don't feel right in my body. As you age you may well know, you lose muscle and therefore strength so it's been my aim to lift heavy weights and do some HIIT exercises each week. But boy my body is not happy, I hurt. I am so committed to self-care now and realised a few years ago how I had relegated my own needs to the bottom of the pile. I first write about this HERE. I think as mums we all do that and fairplay we have a high tolerance for pain and what we might view as self-denial. We think it's our superpower, but it's also our Achilles heel.



We need to reframe Self-Care. Self-Care is not self-ish, it's valuing of the self, made in the image of God. Our bodies deserve respect and maintenance. It's not selfish to go get your teeth fixed, your eyes checked, your back realigned, your blood work done to check hormones etc. You're not being self-indulgent to have a monthly massage which releases toxins and eases aching muscles and joints. You're not being dramatic to go see your GP if your foot is playing up, you're not being weak or needy if you feel you need to go see a counsellor or you might just explode. You're not making a fuss when you notice a lump. Issues ignored don't go away, they either grow or will pop up again somewhere down the line.

In the book of Ephesians Paul writes about how Jesus loves the church, "...no one ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church."

A closer look at that comparison when studied shows us that when we don't cherish, nurture, nourish and protect our body we are actually hating it, we are persecuting and detesting it. No man ever hated his own flesh, yet we do it all the time.

So maybe you can't entertain the idea of a long bubble bath, time alone to ponder deep things, a coffee out or manicure. Maybe you feel too guilty or that it's self-indulgent, maybe you can't afford it. I understand. But take care of yourself. Cherish your body, do what you need to to feel well, to have it working as easily and pain free as possible. Looking after ourselves means we can better look after our most beloveds.


We need to change our mindset that says taking care of ourself isn't important.

Jan 2021 I had a FaceTime with my mum, we were both in the wars; I'd fallen over ice skating and cracked my head open, and was still dealing with post-concussion syndrome but the silly thing was, it was my daughter's 21st birthday a couple of weeks later and I didn't want to spoil it by going to the A&E even though the symptoms were getting worse. 'I'll leave it till the day after' I said to myself.

My mum had tripped over that afternoon while carrying a piping hot lasagne, she'd seriously burnt her arm and her little finger was swollen and black, the neighbours wanted to take her to A&E but she didn't want a fuss. You see how we are.

We take a lot for granted when we're younger and our bodies are extremely forgiving which is probably why we can fudge it for so long. But if this is you today, pushing your mental, spiritual, emotional or physical health aside, if you're muscling through and holding your breath until 'that day' comes when you think you'll be able to breath and then deal with it, don't put it off. Life rarely settles and you are far too precious to those you're sacrificing so much for to not look after you. You have to take responsibility for your own health and well being, you know by now that someone else is probably not going to do that for you. Take care of yourself (Have I said that enough).

I can recommend Paul Scanlon's course on Ageing Well. I love what he says, "Ageing is inevitable, decay is not". He seems to have a 70% off deal atm, not sure when that ends. There also appears to be a smaller taster course. BTW I'm not getting any commission for this I just love Paul's mentorship 😇

 

Guest contributor, Leslie Konhaeuser: Self-Care Mothering & The Incarnation.


I first met Leslie (I think) over on Clubhouse when I was hosting a Sally Clarkson discussion group during the first Lockdown. She was a kindred spirit not to mention wise, grace-filled and passionate about encouraging other women, we clicked right away. As well as Leslie's background in counselling she speaks from the thick of motherhood with 3 littles under 3. I asked Leslie if she would share her thoughts with you in the area of self-care from her stage of life at the other end of the journey. I hope between us we offer some practical encouragement as well as theological framing for the importance of taking notice of ourselves and the gift that our bodies are. Hopefully from 20's-50+ we've got you covered today.


An excerpt:

"There are enough mom-blogs in the world to confirm that motherhood is hard–especially these early years where emotions and needs abound, but logic and regulation are scarce. As a mother of 3 children 3 and under, I can confidently confirm that this season is the first time in my almost 30 years of life that I have reached the actual “end of my rope.” It takes every ounce of my energy, my skills, my talents, and even my weaknesses–all parts of me are “on-deck” to keep these tiny humans alive and also live into the vocation of shaping their soils.


As our heads threaten to dip below the crashing waves around us, the messages offered in attempt to keep us afloat are often conflicting–the world telling us what we need is a little more wine, a weekly massage, or a few hours of sleep to get through the harrowing days of early motherhood; the church telling us to rejoice always, deny ourselves, and count our blessings as a path to finding refreshment in this blurry vocation of motherhood.


I believe that both positions offer whispers of the truth, but are attempting to over-simplify a complex issue. Though often presented as opposing positions, self-care is not the threat to the church’s mission of service and self-denial (I know, I said it. Hold on, I’ll explain soon), but neither is it the end-all-be-all of living well in this season.


So how might a young Christian mom approach the topic of self-care? Here are a few truths that have helped shape my approach to self-care in the last 3 years of tiny-human growing and raising:


First, self-denial is not self-rejection . . ."


To read more click for the download here.


Find Leslie here on her substack and here on her Instagram.




 

Still Life

Fresh & New


Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!

2 Corintians 5:17


This idea began with gardening and getting torn to pieces by a thorny tree. As I cut and tried to tame these barbed limbs it was clear injury was inescapable. The thorns grow at every angle, most determined and designed to impale. I pondered the soldier who twisted a crude crown for Jesus that day, it couldn't have been a quick or easy task, the thorns would have caught against his skin I'm sure, did he curse it as he wove? Holding the cuttings I suddenly had a very tactile item in my hands which took me to that scene in my imagination. The soldier would have known how it would hurt Jesus' head, there was no escape.


My parrot tulips are now in bloom, this was the first cutting from them and I pictured such a burst of verdant colour against the glowy bronze background like a sunrise. This was resurrection! New life on that third day was leading to new life now for those who love him. The forget-me-nots seemed appropriate as did the empty shell. I added a new edit to this image with the crackled oil painting effect, I think I like it.


DOWNLOAD your free image here. Or right click on the image and 'save image'.


This next image was a test shoot the day before which I then edited on my iPhone. I am often impressed with how well my phone can achieve the results I desire. You're welcome to a free download of this also but I wouldn't recommend printing it any larger than a 10x8" as it won't hold up in quality. I really like the little Bluebells featuring in this shot.


DOWNLOAD your free image here. Or right click on the image and 'save image'.


Still Life

Longing


I took this image Good Friday. I always try and take myself into the humanness of a story when I'm engaging with the bible. Remember, the people in the bible didn't know they were in the bible, they were ordinary folk like us, living their lives with an extraordinary God.


I’ve been pondering today what it would have been like to have Jesus wash my feet. What it would have felt like to have this person, who you adored with your life, kneel and be so humble and gracious towards you. I’ve been imagining what it would have felt like to share that last meal, not fully aware it 𝑤𝑎𝑠 the last meal and then later, all your blissful fellowship unravelling in the face of the most twisted betrayal. What would it have been like to see the person who had given everything for you, loved you like no one else ever had, to see Him taken from you in such a cruel and unjust way?


I imagine the disciple’s deep, inconsolable sorrow. Their confusion, anger and doubts. Their whole world had been turned on it’s head and here it was being turned again. I imagine the next few days saw them moving about in a dream like state of horror and how much the words he’d spoken to them would now be sounding in their hearts.


I think of Mary, his mum, about the words she’d treasured in her heart for decades. Words from the angel, shepherds, magi, the elderly and devout Anna and Simeon at Jesus’ dedication. Did she wonder what was coming next or were her thoughts purely on being able to go see and properly prepare his lifeless body?


What a mystery. It was all unfolding and what looked like the end was actually the beginning. But how they must have longed for him in those few days.



 

My Spiritual Abuse Story (an introduction)

*** TRIGGER WARNING ***
The term 'church' is used for ease of reference but only reflects the aspect of a gathered body of people, I do not view this organisation as representing the Spirit and character of God in any way nor is a reflection of the true Church. This church is still operating today, it is a Word of Faith and Prosperity 'gospel' organisation.

September 2004, Melbourne Australia.


I'd been expecting it but it didn't detract from the brutal reality. Overnight we lost all our so-called friends.


I can still remember where I was and what I was doing. The call had been from the senior assistant pastor, also a very close family friend who'd been at my bedside during the birth of our first child and whose name we took for our daughter's middle name. Her voice was loaded with emotions threatening to break under the weight of the words she'd been sent to deliver.


"I'm afraid to tell you Jacqui that because of the things you've been saying about the pastors, a black mark has been put against your names and you're no longer allowed to fellowship with anyone from the church, you've been marked".


This was the closing line on a 7 year chapter. Every relationship we'd invested into, pray