Friday, 12 February 2016

Mad about Mental Health

Kia ora. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Laura Harper and I work in Community Mental Health. I support elderly people who experience mental illness, and I LOVE my job. I also love Jesus and proudly worship Him.

In light of the recent news media about mental illness, suicide, and self-harm, I thought I could write a Christian response to such sadness as this. I aim to be direct in my opinions, but humble too. I am incredibly passionate about having a Christian apologetic around mental health and spend lots of time in prayer, meditation, study, and discussion in this area.

Have a read of what I have to say. If you like it and would like to chat further, or have me speak with your community, please notify me. I would be delighted at such an opportunity.
Contact me on

I spend most of my week with people on the margins of society. Not only are they old, frail, isolated, and sore, they experience the mental turmoil of Bipolar, Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have so much respect and compassion for the mental unwell. Truly they are some of the most gentle, forgiving, and spiritual people I’ve ever met. Plus mental health is so fluid, most of the time they are functioning as a ‘normal’ person.

I am less and less convinced that mental ill-health is not the experience of said ‘normal’ person. We all have our bad days, and sometimes we just want to pull the covers over all our problems and watch Netflix until we fall asleep.

As part of my training, I worked for two months in a youth residential home. There were eight residents, aged 13-18, who lived there. Most of them self-harmed and I saw some truly destructive behaviours whilst placed there.

Yet I also felt the warmth of the Holy Spirit, the compassion of Jesus, and the love of God in that home.

I myself used to experience depression and anxiety. I was diagnosed two years ago, and have received regular therapy since. It’s been a time of tears, truth, challenge, humility, and a whole lot of courage. I have had people deny my claim of sickness, tell me to “rub some Bible on it”, “grow a pair”, or “just stop being sad.” I’m grieved to say that some of these ludicrously unhelpful responses have come from people I admire and respect.

                There is no denying that God has ONLY mercy for the mentally unwell.
                He has only grace, only compassion, only understanding, only redemption.
Being on this side of sickness, I see where God has lavished his truth and freedom on me over the past two years. I am eternally grateful and humbled that Jesus walked me through my pain.

Some are not so lucky. We lose beautiful men and women to suicide or hospitalisation far too frequently. And as Christians, we follow Jesus’ call to bring freedom, truth, and healing to the sick.

In Jesus’ first public address he states,
                “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
                because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
                He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
                and recovery of sight for the blind,
                to set the oppressed free,
                to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

                (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus stands on the side of the poor and needy. Jesus stands alongside the poor and needy. Jesus calls us to do the same.

I never understood that the Bible addresses grief and loss, and replaces them with hope. When in fact, Scripture is a love story; Jesus calls his people back to him time and time again. His arms are wide with love, and there is always room for you in God’s house.

One Scripture I frequent on the bad days is John 16:20-23.

                “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve,   but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

God wills us to express our grief. He validates our pain and loss. He promises us redemption and freedom.
Once again, God has ONLY mercy for the mentally unwell.

If you are a leader in your community, I urge you to address the mental health of those you lead. Ask the hard questions, pray for freedom, choose hope.
If you are a member in your community, I urge you to be truthful about your mental health. Confess when you need help, choose humility, and never stop sharing.

Together we can remove the stigma of mental health and finally admit that we all need a little love and healing.
Will you join me?

In the words of Christ,
                “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Aroha mai, aroha atu.
May you know the peace and love of Christ.

Nga mihi,
La. x

Helpful resources:
Lifeline - 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
Healthline - 0800 611 116
Youthline - 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email

Saturday, 2 August 2014

What I've Learnt From Experiencing Depression.

Kia ora friends,
You may or may not know that I am currently going through depression. I’ve been worried about my mental health for a few years, and I finally went to the doctor several months ago, and she said I had depression and anxiety. I started taking meds and went to regular counselling. I quit my job and went on the sickness benefit.
I wanted to express what I’ve been learning through this all, and to encourage anyone who is struggling.

You are free to feel.
This is the first point because it is one of the most important ones.
You are free to feel.
YOU are FREE to feel.
No matter what our society tells us about how unhelpful or untrue or girlie emotions are, we all have them. And they are there for our benefit!
Our feelings cannot be fully relied upon, but they are an indicator of what is going on for us.
If you are not feeling good, and it’s a constant thing, seek some help.
Allow yourself to be true to what is going on at an emotional level. From there, build logic and sound reasoning. Do not be ruled by your emotions, but listen to them.

Talk to someone.
We are creatures built for community – it’s important for our well-being to be social. Isolating yourself from others will only skew your perspective and further your mental illness.
If you are concerned that you are unwell, tell someone.
If you are concerned that someone else is unwell, tell someone.
We work better when we work together.
Talking to your doctor, friends, or family, can give you another opinion on what is truly happening for you. You don’t have to be struggling to talk honestly with others, it’s a sign of trust and it will bring you new depth in your relationships.
The sooner you get help, the sooner you get better.

You are not alone.
My doctor told me that one in two people struggle with mental illness. That’s 50% of our society!
So please, please, please know there are other people going through a similar thing to you. And there are loads of people who have overcome mental illness too!
There is something special about knowing others feel our pain.
You are not alone love.

Take a holistic approach to health.
Health isn’t just physical, it’s social, emotional, mental, and spiritual too.
So deal to health in these ways. Exercise. Go to the doctor. GET COUNSELLING. Hang out with your friends. Eat well. Laugh. Listen to music. Travel. Pray. Celebrate. Mourn. Educate yourself.
Be a whole person.

You can’t always control your feelings.
This is one of the biggies with depression. I am someone who wants to believe that my feelings don’t have to direct me or dictate my mood, that I can have ownership over them.
But with my depression, sometimes I can’t choose how I feel. I may still know that I am loved and known, and yet feel lonely as ever.
So do what you can, but give yourself a break. Your thoughts are still learning to be healthy too.

Try to maintain a normal life.
Depression doesn’t have to be your total identity. It is huge, and it is bloody hard, but it is not unbeatable.
Don’t lock yourself in your room, or give up your favourite things.
Still go out, and exercise, and connect. Depression doesn’t have to take away from the things a ‘normal’ person enjoys.

Know your limits.
As a bit of a rebuttal to the last point, don’t overdo it. If you know you’ll cry if someone asks you how you really are, or if you are probably going to get wasted if you go to that party, stay home.
Let yourself have the night off, and do something refreshing by yourself.
You don’t have to go to every event, and you are not going to miss out on life.
Be wise my dear.

Remember to rest.
Grief is a sneaky thing. If you don’t express your emotions verbally, your body will do it physically.
When I first stopped working I started sleeping over 10 hours a night and lost 6kgs. My body was expressing the grief I felt inside. I lost loads of energy and motivation.
As I’ve worked on things with my counsellor, I am slowing building my appetite and energy levels back up.
But if you need to take a month off, or go on holiday, do it.
At the least take one day a week out for yourself. And relax!

Always carry $3 with you.
This is the price of a double cheeseburger. You never know when you might need one.

Trust your friends.
Your friends are there to love and support you. They want to know what is going on for you.
They want to help.
Put your fear of rejection on the shelf and talk it out. Trust they desire the best for you. Always be grateful. And realise that you are giving them an opportunity to help, and you will absolutely return the favour when things are looking up.

Build a really good support system.
I chose 13 friends to be close to while I was really struggling. I told everyone else that I was taking some time out, and that involved stepping back from certain relationships. (Everyone was fine with this by the way. You are not indispensable).
I turned down my empathy, and focussed on a few people.
This allowed me some rest and reduced my relational responsibility.
Communicating my needs with those 13 friends helped them to know what to do, and helped us both understand how things were going to look for a while.

Stay connected to your communities.
This is a biggie!! Please stay part of your sports teams, churches, flats, clubs, friend groups, etc. You are in a place where others are helping you and you are receiving a lot.
You need something to contribute to.
So stick at it – these groups are amazing!

Everyone’s depression is different.
I don’t feel exactly what you do, and I would never try to claim that.
I can empathise to an extent, but never fully grasp your reality.
Don’t compare yourself (or your progress) to others.

There is hope.
My friends, THERE IS HOPE!
Depression is not incurable. I don’t know if I will overcome it fully, but I believe one day I will be able to manage it and live a full life.
Don’t give up, hope is coming for you.

Lastly, I would like to thank those who have been supporting me this year. I owe so much to you all, and there is so much love in my heart for you.
I’ll never forget it.

Belinda, Anna, Camo, Frin, Lyndon, Ira, Britty, Danae, Silvan, Amber, Dylan, Phil, Bazi.
Thank you all.

With grace and peace,
La. x

Saturday, 15 June 2013


8 things I have learnt from doing 40 hours of no talking...

1. I really love the evolution of technology.
I know I could have spent some time writing by hand, but Microsoft Word, my cellular phone, and Facebook gave me a much needed outlet for my words over the famine.
I actually managed to have a beautiful conversation with my flatmate. She was talking, I was typing. And we did deeply connect. Who would of thought!
So I'm glad that while maybe I was kinda cheating, I was able to communicate to my friends in a way other than just verbal conversation.

2. I am super grateful that I am educated.
It seems many cultures, poor or not, are able to speak to one another, but in some primitive cultures their language is solely oral. Yet we are lucky to be able to read and to write.
This meant I was able to communicate without just my words, and entertain myself with reading.
I'm glad I've grown up in a country where education is valued and provided.
Just another one of our privileges.

3. I get too much self-worth from the reactions others give my words.
Here it gets a little bit more personal...
Many times over the famine I felt like less of a person because I was unable to speak. It didn't just suck, it really got me thinking about my worth.
See whenever my friends were talking I kept thinking little witty things that I could add to the conversation or say to make them laugh.
Yet, of course I couldn't.
I realised I really want people to think I'm funny, yet without talking how can they?
And when I was "chatting" with my flatmate, I really wanted to encourage her with my words and say "I love you."
But I couldn't.
I am now going to work on showing encouragement through my actions, and worry less about whether people can hear how 'funny' I am.
Very good thought - I urge you to consider this sense of value too.

4. I can handle not talking to others, but not talking to myself is AWFUL.
Maaaaaaaan it was hard not talking to myself for 40 hours!
Do you know how difficult it is to write poetry when you can't say it aloud?!
Poetry is written to be heard I say. So reading it over in my head was just frustrating.
Throughout the day, especially when I am studying, I love to make little noises and read things aloud.
This was definitely the one of the tougher parts of the weekend.

5. I love singing and I feel deprived when I can't do it!
There is really nothing more to say here.
I'm not a great singer at all, but heck I love singing!
40 hours without it was the hardest part of the famine I think.

6. Praying in your head makes it much harder to stay awake while praying.
Let's face it, it's a liiiiiittle tempting to fall asleep when praying sometimes hey?
Especially at night...
I really missed praying aloud and giving God more of my attention.

7. Maybe my words make up too much of who I am.
On the first night of the famine my flatmates and I went out for dinner. One of them said,
"Laura I like it better when you can talk. It feels like you are actually here when you talk."
This made me super sad!
I realised how much of my presence is dedicated by my words.
Isn't it still important that I am physically there? That I am listening and looking at the people I'm with?
I do loooove a good yarn, but I esteem to be more than just a conversationalist.

8. Sometimes silence is the only response, and the best one.
When you cry but you're not sure why,
When someone tells you something awful,
When you see a beautiful sunset,
When you feel faster than you can think,
is perhaps

Thank you 40 Famine, for allowing me to partake in this beautiful experience.
And for having the chance to raise $410 for underprivileged kids!

Grace and peace,
La. x

Sunday, 9 June 2013


Lately I have been struggling a bit with seeing clearly.
It’s not that life isn't great right now, in fact it’s the best it’s been for a long time.
But still in the classic nature of the flesh, I've been selfish.
I've wanted more.

I've been slightly dissatisfied with my current state of being.
Mainly because I have NOTHING going on in my love life and I started fearing I was past my use-by date.
Which is a lie, but you know the crazy places a young-adults brain goes.

So, I've turned to prayer.
In seeking truth I've gone to the only place, the only Him that is truth:
                Jesus Christ.

I've asked for honestly and revelation, and He has surely given it to me.
In surprisingly beautiful ways.

See here I was thinking life wasn't quite enough, so God hung out with me for a while and showed me a deeper piece of His heart. He is grace, mercy, love, truth, beauty.
                He is more than enough.

But alas, back to boys.
I have a wee crush on a certain someone who I am sure doesn't return the feelings. Yet being a dreamer, I have conjured up silly stories in moments of weakness. Then been rather disappointed as I come back down to earth.

But no more will I live outside of truth!
I will face it boldly, and embrace things

And trust that they are that way because that’s where God wants them.

So I wrote a poem.
This one goes out to all the single ladies crushing on a guy who can't quite see they should really be in love with you. Hahaha! Enjoy =).

With grace and peace,
La. x

Written 9th June 2013

Boy, who are you
to me?
In my clouded eyes you are hope,
Full of potential and mystery.
You haven’t quite figured it out yet, but perhaps you are
the one
who is intended only for

We’ll share secrets
and love
We’ll dream and plan and carry out these things
no matter
what it takes. We’ll make
and then forgive one another, saying it doesn't really matter
because we are

This is the you of my mind,
caged and restricted by my imagination,
under my control and
even though all of this is
all of this is

Because boy, who are you
You are a just a guy I've met a few times.
A guy a kind of know.
A guy who I want to grow
in relationship and connection with. But it may
happen. We may forever just be acquaintances,
loose friends,
a couple of people who kinda sorta know each another.

And this sucks, this
that smacks me in the face sucks.
The truth that wakes me up from my dreams and faces me boldly each day.

But what’s worse are the
I conjure up. The fantasies I spend moments
in. Pushing aside the fact that they are
false, created, scripted.
A habit at which I’m so unfortunately gifted.

But this truth just has to be.
For we are in this world to know truly,
and to clearly see.
In the words of Alexander Supertramp, rather than
truth, give me.

So here I go, watch me,
sadly stepping out into the known, the actual,
reluctantly facing

Saturday, 23 February 2013


I recently spent a fantastic week in a Catholic monastery. Here is a small (yet long!) piece of my experience, and a few pictures from the trip. Enjoy =).
(All photos were taken by me, with permission. Copyright.)

Day 1, Friday.
Today I arrived at Southern Star Abbey, the monastery in Kopua. Kopua is just a bit further north than Dannevirke, and the monastery is in the middle of a big farm.
It has been a wonderful day.

The monastery is a beautiful place. The guesthouse holds up to 11 people, and it’s gorgeous. It was designed for light and form, not ornamentation. The colours are lovely and it’s open and spacious.

Straight away I felt very at home here. There is a strong sense of peace about the whole farm. It’s quiet, it’s still. It’s inviting.
Part of this monastic way of life is being hospitable, and I think they do it extremely well.

After being shown around I met some of the other guests. Typically, I was the youngest haha. Everyone was very friendly and we shared “dinner” together around a few tables.
It was very interesting to hear some of the people’s stories as we ate – why they came to the monastery, where they were from, parts of their pain. Even though we spoke only briefly, I felt a renewed compassion for other people. Some awful things happen in life, things that really don’t seem to be fair.

Though the joy of knowing Christ was equally present among these conversations. Everyone I have met today is seeking God, drawing closer to Him, exploring His love, and really finding His presence.

I read through some of the guestbook today, and one man had written,
           “Found God – he’s here!”

And it’s true.
Yes, God is present everywhere, always, but there is a thickness to this air.
God’s presence dwells here.
As I walked the grounds after dinner I felt soaked in Him. As I sat down and looked at the landscape, tears welled up within me and dribbled down my face. Tears of fullness, of gladness, of true contentment.

I didn’t want to interrupt this tangible presence so I sat a long time. What a great week this will be!

In the afternoon I walked and explored the bush and the river. It’s not a huge farm, but it’s so open. I felt I could breathe, and this freedom thrilled me.
The blaring silence made me smile and praise God for this wonderful experience.

Shortly after 5 there was “tea.” A lighter meal, which was vegetable soup that included MUSHROOMS!! Boy was I loving it =).
Quite a few guests had left so we all sat at one table. I talked with a lovely Australian woman about her life’s adventures. I heard the latest cricket scores from a new guest – deeply exciting stuff. An India couple told us about their childhood, and an English Brother shared political stories which mostly I didn’t understand but was happy to listen too.

Even though I was among strangers, we felt like a big, multi-cultural family.
The monastery has a wonderful vibe. People are free to do what they want, yet everyone is very friendly.

After tea was the Evening Prayer and Compline. This was the first time I saw the monks. I don’t know much about Catholic monasteries, and as I had never been to one I sat at the back and observed. Both services went for about half an hour. We sang hymns and Psalms, heard a sermon, and spent a decent amount of time in silent meditation. I later found out it was only 15 minutes but it felt a lot longer! Sitting silently in a room with a bunch of other people is really beautiful.

The singing was slightly difficult as I didn’t know any of the tunes and I could hear my own wobbly voice way too loudly haha! The sermon was short and mostly good. One quote I remember a Father saying was,
             “Christianity is not a moral theory; it’s a love story between God and humanity, which is consecrated in Jesus Christ.”

Pretty beautiful hey?
Christianity is a living, dynamic faith. It’s practical and out-worked; not theoretical and stagnant. Faith, while shown in multiple ways, is always done. It’s acted. It’s lived.

“Loving Father,
Thank you for bringing me here and expanding my viewpoint on what genuine faith in you looks like. May you bless all those who live here in the monastery with a continuous passion for you. May the monks inspire me to have a radical, disciplined, and daily faith. Thank you for your peace and presence in this beautiful place. Please reveal your heart and truth to me while I am here, and open my eyes to seeing you wherever I go. Amen.”

After Compline the Great Silence is observed until Community Mass tomorrow at 8am. It’s nice to finish the day with silence. Time to reflect, pray, and rest is so necessary.

At the end of my first day I’m feeling peaceful, satisfied, and very happy.
Thank you Jesus! (P.T.L! =p)

Day 3, Sunday.
At the end of my third day here I am feeling great. I am now settled in, used to the rhythm, familiar with what happens at what time.

Every day I have been exploring the area around the monastery, and yesterday I found “my place.” It’s a small walk, through some trees, down a track, then through some bushes until you reach the river. Here I walked through the water and found some comfy rocks to sit on and listen to the rapids. I felt overjoyed to find a perfect wee spot, hidden away, that I could claim as my own.
I sat there for a couple of hours, praying, meditating, and thinking, all the while smiling at the beauty.

It’s so easy to praise God for His creativity and majesty when you are surrounded by such wonderful creation. Yet I long to praise Him with such ease no matter what surrounds me.

After tea I went to Evening Prayer then skipped Compline to watch the sunset out the back of the farm. Sadly some thick clouds covered most of it, but it was still so gorgeous to watch the sun slowly hide behind such a stunning back-drop.

Then to my delight the stars came out on a cloudless sky.
I lay on the grass for some time, gazing at their beauty. The stars are something that have always reminded and reassured me of God’s presence. And seeing them in this country, in such high definition with nothing to interrupt them, was a true delight.

Today is Sunday, and at 10am there was Community Mass. A number of people from local farms and close towns joined us for the Mass. It was so different to any service during the week! There were children crying and playing, rather than the usual stiff silence. While that proved rather distracting it was nice to have a fuller church.

I met some of the locals after church and a lady spoke with me about the wonderful atmosphere here at the monastery. She noted the hospitality of the monks, saying, “They are so inviting. They don’t need to know your background, or who you are, they just welcome you in.”

And it’s so true! Many of the Fathers have asked me what I do with my time, but only out of politeness, not necessity. They are some of the most accepting people I’ve ever met.
             It’s such a great example.

I went on a big walk today and found another great spot by the river. I stayed a few hours, singing, praying, and writing poems. The creative juices certainly flow when you’ve got nothing to distract you!
I definitely do not miss checking Facebook or replying to texts =).

Tonight I spent a couple of hours talking with a lady visiting from Palmy. She is a counsellor, and so easy to talk with. We discussed our families, struggles with the Church, why we were here, and what we deemed important in life. Meeting her was great – we were able to talk deeply and honestly with each other. The other guests have kind of kept to themselves, and I’ve only really seen them at meal times. Which is cool, but it was nice to connect a bit more with someone.

At this point I’d definitely say that you all should come to this place! It’s so, so peaceful. It’s relaxing, it’s restful, it’s interesting, it’s different, and it’s very comfy.
I’m so grateful these places exist, and bring such benefit to both the guests and those who live here permanently.

“God, thank you that these wonderful places occur right here in New Zealand. You call people into many different areas of life, and that diversity is awesome. Please continue to bless those who come to this monastery, and deepen the sense of Your presence and closeness here. Continue to challenge me and speak to me, I pray. May all glory and praise go to You and Your loving cause, Jesus. With gratitude, Amen.”

Day 4, Monday.
After going to the Prayer of the Sixth Hour today I stayed after the service and sat looking at the church.
It’s so different to my church, and to any church I’ve been in, even other Catholic ones.
From what I’ve observed, and after reading some given literature on it, this is what the church here is all about.

When you enter the church there is a table for the service books, with the holy water stoup next to it. The holy water is in a bowl, and those entering the church dip their fingers into it, then put the water somewhere on their bodies. People here seem to mainly put it on their foreheads. This water is used to bless them, in remembrance of their baptism.
In front of this are the pews, where the congregation sits.

On the left and right sides of the church are the Choir Stalls which the monks stand and sit in. Here they chant the Divine Office, which is the official Prayer of the Church. There is also an organ nearby, which the Abbot or a companion sometimes plays to support the chanting.
The chanting consists of singing hymns, psalms, and other prayers or benedictions. One Father told me each monk has to have proper singing lessons haha! It’s understandable; the services mainly consist of singing.

Between the two sets of choir stalls is a high table. This is the Altar, on which the Mass is celebrated each day. During the Mass the wine and bread are consecrated by a priest, “to become the true Body and Blood of Christ.” Communion is then served from this table. 

Behind the altar is the Lectern. This is where the scriptures and other writings are proclaimed during the Mass or the Prayer of the Church. The priests speak into a microphone so everyone can hear, and a number of them kiss the Bible after reading scriptures from it.

On a small table at the back of the church is the Tabernacle. The Sacred Host is kept in the Tabernacle, which is the bread that has been changed into the Body of Christ at Mass.

The priests write, “Jesus is truly present in the Sacred Host. Because of the Lord’s presence, when we enter or leave the church, or on moving from one side to the other, we all bow to the Lord present in the Tabernacle.”

This bowing happens multiple times during any service. When certain prayers are sung the congregation and the monks face the Tabernacle and bow to it.

To the left of the Tabernacle is the processional Crucifix, a wooden cross with Jesus hanging on it.

Just left of this is the entrance to the Meditation Room. As you enter there is the Sanctuary Light. “This indicates that the Lord is present in the Tabernacle.” This light is always on.

On the back wall of the Meditation Room is another Tabernacle, where the Sacred Host is kept.
“This allows us to feel very close to God in our meditation or contemplation.”

The community of monks (and any guests who want to join) celebrate the Divine Office seven times a day. These are done at 4am, 6am, 8am, 11:30am, 2pm, 5:15pm, and 8pm on weekday, and at slightly different times on a Sunday. The whole book of Psalms is recited during a two weekly cycle. Which is pretty awesome!

A lot of this monastic life is awesome. It’s so different to anything I’ve experienced.
There is such dedication given by the priests here, both in the sacrifice they’ve made to God and the way they treat their guests. They serve their community and God very selflessly.

               And I think it is just beautiful.

Day 7, Thursday.
Today is my last full day here at Southern Star Abbey. Which is kind of a shame, but I also think I am ready to leave. I wrote a letter to a friend the other day saying how being in the middle of nowhere is so freeing, like taking a much needed breathe of air. Yet I noted, “It’s tough though too, being away from normal life and people I know. Tough mainly because I don’t want to lose this close connection with God when I return to the distractions of everyday life.”

It’s easy to cling to God when you’ve got nothing else around you. It is hard being so isolated, and you miss that comfy sense of familiarity, but you still feel it. You feel it inside, that you are home. Home because God is our true Home, and He promises to always be with us.

I’ve definitely experienced a new part of my Home this week. How stuck we can get in our own traditions or ways of worshipping God.

Being a Protestant, not a Catholic, a lot of what happens here is very new and unusual to me. To be honest I kind of smirked at this way of life at the beginning. I thought parts of the Catholic practices here were funny or amusing.
But I’ve come to realise that everything these Catholic monks or lay-people do is saturated in meaning. Everything has a reason behind it. And generally people know what that reason is.

                Which is a beautiful thing – to have, and know, reasons behind the way you practice your faith.

There have been times in my faith journey when I’ve not understood properly why I practised Christianity the way I did. But these Christian’s know what they are doing, and why they do it, bringing a deep sense of meaning to their spirituality.

I think what confused me most about Catholicism was how repetitive it is. The services here, and regular weekly masses elsewhere, move in cycles. The monks here repeat the same prayers, psalms, and hymns – spread over time but they never change. I asked, how can they say the same thing again and again yet keep recognising its specialness or meaning?

A friend of mine once told me she withheld saying “I love you” to her boyfriend until she was sure that she really meant it. Then after she had told him, she was scared to say it to him all the time because she wanted it to be a special phrase. She thought if she said it a lot it would become regular, usual, and would lose the beauty of its meaning. She soon realised this was a silly worry. Repeating the words “I love you” didn’t make them meaningless, because her love for her boyfriend grew and changed.

Likewise, a Christian’s love for God is always growing and changing. So even though these Catholics might be saying the same prayers and hymns over and over, the thought behind the words is different. They can be said each time with a new perspective, conviction, and love.

I’m so glad God has given me a deeper respect for Catholicism, and for the diversity of worship in general. I’ve certainly had my perspective on faith broadened while being here.

I grew up in church, so I’ve been taking communion for basically my whole life.
              Yet I’ve never been so moved by communion as I was when I took it here, two days ago.
I felt deeper the sacrifice and love of Christ’s death, as well as the appreciation I have for our consequent salvation.

I’m not sure if this was a break-through – or more of a break-down! =p.
I’ve been feeling and crying a LOT this past week.
And despite this wealth of emotion and stirring within my heart, I’m still not entirely sure what God is trying to communicate to me. I think what He’s saying is that He is with me. And He’ll never leave. And He notices me, cares for me, and loves me in a unique and special way.

Which sounds so simple, so utterly basic! It’s something I learnt long ago, back in Children’s Church.

              Yet it is a truth I frequently forget, and a truth I’m delighted at when reminded of it.

I’ve started to read a delightful book by Henri J.M. Nouwen, called ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming.’ To so much of the author’s struggles I can relate.

In one part I read this morning he says this,
Although claiming my true identity as a child of God, I still live as though the God to whom I am returning demands an explanation. I still think about his love as conditional and about home as a place I am not yet fully sure of. While walking home, I keep entertaining doubts about whether I will be truly welcome when I get there.
As I look at my spiritual journey, my long and fatiguing trip home, I see how full it is of guilt about the past and worries about the future. I realise my failures and know that I have lost the dignity of my sonship, but I am not yet able to fully believe that where my failings are great, “grace is always greater.”
(Page 52).

Pastor’s say, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more, or to make God love you less.” And I soo struggle to believe that, but it’s actually true.

God’s gift is unconditional love.
                While my love is not enough, Jesus’ love is more than sufficient.

With grace and peace,
La. x

Sunday, 30 December 2012


The other night my five-year-old nephew and I built a fort that we could sleep in for the night. We gathered blankets, pillows, and sheets and arranged them in an adequate fashion.
I tucked my nephew into bed, read him a story, told him I’d be there later, and kissed him goodnight.

When I returned I found him being a total fort hog, lying right in the middle! I moved him around and he awoke.
“You comfy?” I asked
“Yup. I love this fort Aunty.”
“Haha great, I am going to tell you about this when you are my age. Good night darling.” I kissed him again and he instantly fell asleep.

As I watched him in the low light, I began to weep.
            Not just from my eyes, from my heart.

I wept for two reasons.
Firstly, I was sad because I saw the pair of us lying safely under the fort, and realised we were two generations of fatherless children.

When I was three my father left and I’ve seen him since, but I do not consider him my dad. More of an acquaintance. Or a far-away cousin, who you don’t really know but you send them a Christmas card just out of courtesy.
My nephew was born out of wedlock, and my sister is no longer with the guy. He’s okay I guess, but he doesn't offer the relationship of a close and present father.
I cried because I understood that my nephew would grow up with only half an identity, half a heart.
             Like me.

Secondly, I cried because I felt the presence of Jesus.
I prayed and asked that my nephew would grow up knowing a father. A real dad for him to play with, and ask questions, and who would love my sister.
And for a heavenly Father, who would love him unconditionally forever.

Luckily I have both of these fathers.
Tonga, a guy from my church, has most definitely taken on the father-figure role in my life. I don’t think it was ever intended but it just happened. And it’s beautiful.
I know in Tonga I find trust, safety, and love, and I don’t find abuse, abandonment, or judgement.
Sadly my mother never remarried, but gladly Tonga came along. And I am so grateful.
I’ve also always had a relationship with God.
He’s revealed His love, confidence, beauty, heart, and magnificence to me over the years. This is a Father who I am certain will never walk away.

So Jesus, thank you that you have provided me with two wonderful fathers who know and love me. I pray my precious nephew experiences the same. May I always listen to his pain, understand it, and carry a little piece of it with me. Thank you for your provision. Amen.

My darling nephew stirred once more, as I stroked his hair. I said, “You are so special baby.”
“I know.” He replied.
“May you always know that…”
As I went to sleep in our fort, his tiny arms wrapped around me, my pillow still soggy from tears, I felt like the luckiest Aunty in the world.

Yahweh, the Lord Almighty, Wonderful Redeemer, God, Father to the Fatherless…

With grace and peace,
La x.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


I had my fourth day working at the Home today. We set up the tables for a lovely Christmas lunch. We put table cloths, Christmas trees, cutlery, napkins, santa chocolates, all in green and red of course.

I've never liked Christmas much, but today my perspective was changed.
Definitely for the better.

Seeing the residents get so excited about all the decorations, looking forward to the food, and telling me about their family coming to visit, and wishing me a merry Christmas really showed me the true meaning of Christmas.
It's about making someone smile, giving someone hope, and sharing in life together.

And now, I like Christmas. I love that 80 year olds in a Rest Home showed me this truth.

So bring on Christmas!!!

My favourite part of today was meeting a dear old resident called Allie.
She was 87 and from the West Coast, which she is very proud of. She told me all about her family, showed me her room, and proudly introduced me to her family photos and teddy bears. She lost her mother a few years ago and misses her so. She has a cupboard of all her mother's things including some very hip sunglasses!

She asked me about myself too, were my parents still alive, did I work there, am I married, how old do I think she is.
          Then she asked me these things again =).

Then she said the cutest thing. We were talking about how it must be nice to live in a place with all your friends and meeting new people. "Ooh it is you see."
Then she said,
          "You are my best friend."

I'd literally met her 5 minutes earlier but she gave me the title of Best Friend. I was honoured!

As I had to leave I said, "Merry Christmas my friend, you have a great time. I will see you in the New Year. Goodbye Allie."
She replied, "Don't say goodbye dear, it brings a tear to my eye."
"Oh sorry love, I'll be seeing you soon."

Meeting Allie today definitely made me feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing in the Home. She so easily invited me into her life, kissed me on the cheek to say goodbye, told me her story and let me close to her.
          I hope to treat people in the same way.

Merry Christmas everyone.

With grace and peace,
La x.