Divorce, Grief, Transitions, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

FROM VICTIM TO VICTOR Learning, Overcoming rejection or Abandonment

2018-06-27 01.31.20-1
At Santa Barbara

Last week we looked at the scenarios that led us to feeling rejected or abandoned. How do we take positive steps to take back our power and not feel the victim of someone else’s decisions? We may need to look back further than the current situation to find our healing.  Sometimes these feelings of abandonment start as a child. Were you ever in a supermarket or fair and you could not find your parents?  Did you parents neglect to spend a lot of time with you, leaving you to your own devises or a long line of child minders? 

Parents that were not available to you to nurture the bond that should be between parent and child. Perhaps your parents were divorced, and you could not bond with one or the other parent at a time when your greatest need was to feel safe and protected.  This may have led you into unhealthy attachments to caregivers or a romantic partner when you did find someone who took care of you. Instead of a relationship based on mutual care and love, you fell into a co-dependency role in an unhealthy relationship that led to divorce.

As a widow you may feel more intense grief at the death of your partner, feeling abandoned.  In the school grounds you felt abandoned and rejected when your best friend went off with someone else and you were shunned from the group. These are the roots that make us feel these emotions more intensely and if they have been a habitual pattern in your life may continue to plague you until they are recognized and dealt with.

So how do we get past this feeling of abandonment and rejection? First, you need to stop believing that you were not good enough or it was all your fault. (This could be from the childhood root).  Start to nurture yourself, where you felt you lacked, start making time to fill those places with self-love and care.  Take yourself out to the movies or a cup of coffee and cake, something that will feed your soul.  Listen to beautiful music, it washes your heart with tears.  Read good books, and if you are not a reader, listen to podcasts, but especially listen to the Word of God.  If you read the Psalms, you will find so many that meet your heart’s cry for answers. It is beautiful, when you come across a Psalm that speaks directly to your need, a message from God. Psalm 94:14 “The Lord will not reject his people; he will not abandon his special possession.” When we think we are unlovable and nobody will ever care for us again, remember that God who created you loves you and is there to help you through this dark place.

Don’t beat yourself up over the what ifs’ focus on replacing old memories with new memories and dreams of another future. Celebrate the good times and create an action plan for the future. I have found it to be much easier if you have a clean break. If you are divorced minimize contact to basics or via a third person.  Put emotional distance (physical environment too if possible) between you.  Heal your heart before dating again otherwise your same lack of confidence and unhealthy attachment pattern may rise up to sabotage you.

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https://ntrelationships.com/single-again-dating-after-divorce/

Clear out the cupboards, get rid of items that bring back memories that hurt. I gave my wedding pictures to the children.  Or if widowed just making a special album or decorating s corner in your home to remember your departed where you can go when you want to remember. Make a space for your new future to emerge.

It is not helpful to follow your ex on social media or get the kids to spy on him. Keep taking back your own life by making new memories to replace the old hurtful ones. Visit new places, do things that you did not do with him. On a rough day, do hard physical exercise, walk run, play a sport. Scrub floors, whatever it takes to get it out of your system.

Spend time with friends or family, people who have your back and will listen to you. Join in community activities like hiking clubs, art or book clubs, try to find ones that are not couples orientated. Reinvent yourself – reassess your values and start doing the things that make you happy. Make some new life goals, set yourself challenges, learn new skills. Set goals that encompasses spiritual, mental, physical and emotional aspects so you grow in all areas.

There is a lot of learning to be done in this space, finding yourself again, and what you want for the future.  It is often helpful to make a vision board of what you would like your life to be like. This is all part of recovering your sense of self-worth – learn new skills so you can feel you have achieved something, that really gives you a boost. Continue to grow mentally, spiritually, and physically and you will see how they all work together to help you grow emotionally. Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations and Bible verses that say you are beloved by God.  I took Art Classes and painted my heart out, just the positive feedback from another human being may be all you need to build your self confidence again.  Walk away from anyone who want to criticize and deride you and set boundaries on your own and other people’s behavior towards you.

Most of all learn to enjoy your own company while you are working through this loss, rather like a butterfly when it is in the chrysalis, quietly transforming on the inside, until you are ready to emerge in glorious technicolor.

Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

GRAFTED INTO THE LIVING TREE

In many ways it is much easier to understand spiritual concepts through metaphors and as an artist, I understand a lot more about God’s love through nature when I can see practical evidence than through mere words which do not capture my imagination, but often sound judgmental.

So, what can ‘being grafted in’ mean for those of us who have had to transition through difficult life circumstances with limited choices, escaped from countries where violence rules or been through a divorce?

As a young child I used to follow my father or grandfather around the garden.  One of the things they did was graft a bud from a new good bearing fruit tree onto the stock of an old fruit tree or one that was a strong grower but did not bear good fruit.  Some of the more delicate trees would not be able to withstand the climatic conditions, but the root stock could and so this symbiosis of the two would bring about the desired fruit.

The prophet Isaiah uses a tree metaphor pointing to the future birth of Christ from the lineage of David ‘a green shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, and from his roots a budding branch,’ He also said that the ‘Spirit of God would hover over him giving wisdom, understanding, direction and strength and the knowledge and the fear of God would be his joy and delight.’ The second half of the Isaiah passage has brought me much comfort where the budding branch (Christ) won’t judge by appearances, won’t decide on the basis of hearsay; isn’t that just what we need? God knows the heart of these matters and will judge the needy by what is right and render justice to the poor.  When people only see what they want to see or hear what they want to hear, when the widow or divorcee has been treated unjustly, God will see and bring justice in his time.

This symbiosis of the root stock and the branch is mentioned again in Romans where Paul writes that the Gentiles (wild olive tree) have been grafted into Abraham’s tree, which was God’s special olive tree so that both could share the rich nourishment from God, for if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be too.

God has a lot to say about the treatment of widows, orphans and foreigners that they should be treated fairly. He made a lot of provisions for them in the laws that governed harvesting and reaping. In this modern age it is hard to see the equivalent when women are treated ‘equally’, orphans are put into foster homes and foreigners are welcome, yet often find it more difficult to get the same opportunities as others.  As I fitted into this category of widow and foreigner, I once asked my pastor how he saw me. He was surprised and said, ‘I see you as a competent woman!” This may have been so, but it did not address the loneliness I felt of being widowed, neither the feeling of alienation from the culture, being an ‘outsider’. This was the time I needed to be ‘grafted into’ the new community. How does that happen, I think it takes the symbiosis of accepting one another, the stable stock allowing the new bud to be grafted in, it also requires that the bud heal into the tissues of the stock and start drawing sap from the root which is grounded.  As the two grow together, the sap (the Spirit) will nourish and bring wisdom, understanding, direction and strength, trusting that God who makes things grow will certainly bring unity allowing relationships to flourish and grow.

The Tree of Life is mentioned in Revelation, where its leaves will be used for the healing of the Nations, in this time of mass migration and brokenness of the family structure, would it not be wonderful if we could learn from the tree and adapt and grow together, each branch grafted into its community and each nation being grafted into the Tree of Life where we would all be at peace with one another and have all our needs met. This is what God intended from the beginning so He could enjoy living among the people He created, He is the root and we are the branches and the sap is the Spirit of unity that binds us all together. Our church communities could be a starting point on a micro level! The weaker cannot thrive without the stronger, the old cannot bear as much good fruit without the strength and vitality of the new graft as it draws its strength for the roots the symbiosis is the living tree bearing good fruit.

Divorce, Grief, Retirement, Seasons of Life, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

BLESSINGS OR CURSINGS

Today, I am going to walk you through a forest of different stories, they are linked by a theme of blessing or cursing. What does this mean for someone who has been widowed, gone through a divorce or lost their home?  What does this mean for those who are transitioning to new places? These stories symbolize to me God’s providential care and provision represented by the place trees held in the stories.

I was fascinated to learn the role trees played in early Biblical history. In the beginning God created trees and declared them good: they were to be used for man’s food and enjoyment. After Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit from the tree in the Garden of Eden, the first thing Adam and Eve did was to sew leaves together to cover themselves and hide in the trees. Instead of food trees were used for cover and protection!

Growing up in Africa with shady trees; we enjoyed many a meal or afternoon tea under a tree with our guests, a place of hospitality and protection from the sun. Abraham bought a plot of land at Mamre that had a cave and trees on it, he entertained God’s messengers under the trees, this is also where he buried his wife Sarah and others who died. Have you noticed that old graveyards have trees planted around them, especially the ones with tall cypress trees standing like sentinels to watch over the dead? Trees provide peace and protection to the dead and living alike.

When Pharaoh would not let the Israelites go, God sent a hailstorm that shattered the trees, and so began a pattern in the Old Testament of destroying trees as judgement. When they were about to besiege a city, the Israelites were instructed not to destroy the fruit trees, so they could eat the fruit but they could cut down non fruit bearing trees to make ladders, portable towers, and battering rams to get into the city. After the enemy was captured quite often the bodies were hung on trees. Jesus was hung on a tree when he was crucified; the symbol of redemption too, provision for our salvation protecting us from God’s wrath. Even in modern times this practice of hanging was practiced as a form of capital punishment.

There is a correlation between blessings and cursing with trees. When people turned away from God, their crops would be stunted, locusts would eat their plants, there would be droughts and fire and olive and fig trees be destroyed or not bear fruit. In other words, their provision and protection were withdrawn. On the other hand, when God blessed the people, their fruit trees and fields yielded bumper crops, and everyone lived in safety. The prophet Habakkuk said even if the fig tree did not blossom and there are no grapes on the vines and the crops and livestock failed, he would continue to rejoice in God his Savior. You may ask whether you are suffering under a curse when things seem bleak after your loss? Turning to God, will help transform your mindset to blessings even if you can’t see them right now, if you rejoice in the presence of God, you will still be under His covenant of provision and protection.

Trees were also used in decoration and celebration. God gave the blueprint for the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant, to be made with richly carved and gilded wood. Solomon’s Temple was made with wood brought from the forests of Lebanon, firs, pines, and box trees carved and gilded to beautify the sanctuary. Medieval churches were also richly decorated, something modern man could be missing out on! The Festival of Booths, (boughs were cut from trees and booths were made from them) was to remind the Israelites they had lived in tents in the wilderness and God had provided both food and shelter for them and when they arrived in the Promised land, he gave them vineyards and olive trees they had not planted. This festival was at the end of the natural harvest cycle and was a joyful celebration. Our modern Harvest Festival has a similar tone, to celebrate the provision of God in the harvest.- Even families were likened to olive trees, the psalmist wrote “your wife shall be contented in your home, and the children sit around the dinner table as vigorous and healthy as young olive trees!” Again, a symbol of fruitfulness and provision and children would be a protection in their old age.

We may be travelling through a desolate place right now, through the wilderness, and yet God provides food and shelter in those places. When I think back to the times I have been through the wilderness after my divorce and widowhood, there has always been a roof over my head and food has been provided in one way or another. When I first started my new job in Johannesburg, the company put me up at a hotel for a couple of weeks. As I had made an international move, they extended my stay until the end of the month and my first paycheck.  I then stayed with a family member for a month until I could get my own apartment. The company also had a policy of ‘Meal Tickets’ which you could exchange for a meal at the local fast food stores.  I had had to move forward in faith not knowing how I would get by until my first paycheck and yet there was not a day I was not provided for. I have had to trust the Lord to protect me to take care of my children going to school, when I was seriously ill with a deep vein thrombosis and when they had to move overseas to make their own way in the world.

Sometimes we may have escaped from a situation where we felt like there was no fruit, no joy and no blessings, that we were being punished for what has gone wrong in our lives and bad choices we had made, our person-hood was under siege or we were the victim of other people’s choices. When next you look at trees, stop to think about what they symbolize – Enjoy their beauty and know that God will provide and protect you especially when you are going through the wilderness. “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4

Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

MY TEARS ARE COLLECTED IN A BOTTLE

On a visit to Pennsylvania the friend I visited would collect water in containers at the local spring.  I was fascinated by this; as we searched for the spring which was hidden away alongside a small road. We carried our empty containers down to the collecting pipes and filled them. Once the containers were full, they became heavy and more difficult to maneuver. That was the week’s drinking water supply and it made me realize if you must collect and carry your own water, you won’t waste a drop!  We have lost that sense of preciousness of water, by having it on tap when we turn on the faucet.  How much do we waste?

When we look from the perspective of water as a precious commodity it really helps to understand why wars were fought over wells and springs in the past. Armies needed to set up camp at a spring so that their horses and men could be watered and refreshed. King Hezekiah had prepared for war by fortifying Jerusalem and constructing an underground tunnel to bring fresh water into the city from a spring outside the walls, as he knew they would be under siege. He decided to plug the springs outside so the enemy could not have access to water.

The children of Israel camped a long time in Elim where there were twelve springs of water and palm trees. God promised them the land they were going to was a land of brooks, pools, gushing springs, valleys, and hills. Can you imagine after being in the desert for such a long time, thirsty for lack of water what this promise meant to them, not having to search for water and carry it with them until the next place they could find water? When they arrived in the Promised Land, Caleb gave his daughter some land for a wedding gift but it was desert, so she asked him for land with springs as well.

When a very dear friend of mine died her daughter asked me to do a painting for her from Psalm 84:6 “When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of springs where pools of blessing and refreshment collect after rains!” this reminded her of her Mom’s life and her last struggle with cancer. We all prayed so hard for healing, and believed it would come, but after a short struggle my friend died. We were all devastated that this precious woman could go so quickly. Yes, when we go through the loss of a dear friend or family member, we shed many tears, our eyes will leak at the slightest thing and yet this is a necessary part of the grieving process.  Grief helps us to treasure those tears, they are valuable in processing the loss and remembering all the good and wonderful blessings we received through that person’s life. Not a tear is wasted, in fact the psalmist said ‘You have collected all my tears and preserved them in your bottle! You have recorded every one in your book.” Just as I came to realize when you must collect your own water, you wont waste it. How amazing that God will not let your tears be wasted either. He stores them for refreshment later.

There will come a time when you will be happy and joyful again, when you have processed the loss and accepted it was part of your life’s journey. The prophet Isaiah puts it so well, “The lame man will leap up like a deer, and those who could not speak will shout and sing! Springs will burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.” You will also have treasured memories in your heart, those tears you shed will become like pools of blessing as you remember the precious life of your loved one and that life is not limited to the here and now but is eternal.

Divorce, Grief, Seasons of Life, Transitions, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, Widowhood

WHEN YOU GO THROUGH THE RIVER OF DIFFICULTY, YOU WONT DROWN

I was born in a country that has two great rivers for borders, the one was the Zambezi on which the Victoria Falls is situated and is a treacherous river with crocodiles and hippopotami.  It is also one of the most beautiful rivers when the sun is setting, and the sounds of wildlife and birds fill the air.  The sun has a magnificent orange glow that sets the river on fire and silhouettes the palm trees, and as you listen to the lapping of the water on the shore or on the boat for the Sunset Cruise, there is no more beautiful place on earth. I can imagine this was like the river mentioned in the Garden of Eden. The southern border of my land of birth was the great, grey, greasy Limpopo River cited by Rudyard Kipling in the Elephant’s Child in Just So Stories, also a dangerous river with crocodiles and hippopotami. People have lost their lives trying to cross these rivers, the Limpopo in particular, as it is shallower and people wanting to cross without going through the border post stand in danger of losing their lives if they risk crossing.

There were times when I was trying to relocate internationally that the bureaucracy was unbearable. To obtain all the documentation and proof of identity that was required of me, was difficult to get from a country in chaos. This among other things made leaving my land of birth a hard time.  But harder still was leaving family and friends and the land that was and still is beautiful. I cherish the memories of my childhood years and the land of freedom and milk and honey (so it seemed to me). I have moved internationally four times and each time has had its difficulties, but I also learned how to navigate through the bureaucracy making it that much easier each time.

I have never been tempted to swim the Limpopo river! I crossed the Beitbridge which takes you into South Africa. I leant all I could about the country on the other side of the bridge and taking the steps necessary to be able to cross over at the Immigration post with my paperwork in order, knowing I had a job waiting for me so I could pay my way. This is part of the process getting to know the culture, language, geography and history of the place your are relocating to, making the transition easier.

I kept my faith that the path that God was leading me was the right one for me and took comfort in the words of Isaiah “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you.” That is such a comforting verse for people leaving a conflicted land. Not only that, but Isaiah goes on to say “For I’m going to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Don’t you see it? I will make a road through the wilderness for my people to go home and create rivers for them in the desert!” Words of hope for the future!

Yes, the Lord has been gracious and given me a future in each land I have lived, it has not been an easy road, but with God’s help there has been work that I could do and people to help me when I have sought them out in the churches in my new location. If you are going through an international relocation right now, patiently follow the process, there is no quick and easy way. Take comfort that God goes with you and is with you through each of the trials you may face.  Treasure the memories of your past place of living, but keep them in a box to be pulled out every now and then to be enjoyed, mourn the loss of your past life, but also embrace the new, letting the past remain there, it cant be changed. Focus on building up your new life, making new friends and contacts and exploring your new environment. In due course you will feel like a native in your new land.