Sunday, October 24, 2021
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Tams Lomas

When Light versus Dark, Choose to be the Light

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Anyone who knows me, who has spoken to me for a few minutes, or who is just a complete stranger who sees my tweets, will know that I’m a series, movies and book addict.

Years ago I discovered Night Watch. No, not that rubbish thriller set in the morgue. Night Watch is a Russian movie based on the novel by Sergei Lukyanenko with vampires, witches, shapeshifters and all of those those sort of supernatural things. It’s about good versus evil; light versus dark. And it has to be watched in the theatrical version Russian, with subtitles. Of course.

I’m oversimplifying the plot and storyline drastically in order to move things along. Basically, when someone finds out they are one of “The Others”, they get to decide whether they are a Light One or Dark One. And that’s where one of my favourite quotes comes in.

“If he chooses the side of Light, then Light will win. But, those, to whom the truth has been revealed, say that he will choose Darkness. For it is easier to kill the Light within oneself, than to scatter the Darkness around…

When I was deep in depression, this was my favourite quote. It made sense to me; made sense of how I felt; and it explained why fighting and trying to be happy was just too darn hard.

I don’t know why, but one night at 3am this quote suddenly came into my mind and I saw a different side to it. The quote is definitely a truth, you can’t deny that – the darkness is so much easier to give in to than choosing light. “Light” and “dark” can be a metaphor for so many things:

“Darkness and light have been used as symbols in world literature throughout human history, from the divine proclamation of “Let there be light” in the first book of the Bible, to harrowing passages of loss in contemporary literature. Darkness and light in the classical canon typically represent two opposing forces of nature, whether good and evil, knowledge and ignorance, love and hate or happiness and despair.” – Dark & Light Symbolism in Literature

Goodness, happiness, light – they are really hard to fight for and it’s easier to just go the other way. But one of the first things you learn as a Christian is that God didn’t promise to make things easy; He promised to give you the strength to deal with it.

As Christians we are called to be the light; for ourselves and for others.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16

“No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light.” – Luke 11:33

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” – Ephesians 5:8

If each one of us choose the light, and to be the light – not just Christians but all of humanity – won’t we be making it easier for those in the dark to do the same?

As someone who has fought depression and won so many times over, it’s easier for me to get to my “light” now than it was when I was in the very depths of the “dark”. I can’t fight depression for someone in the midst of it, but I can show them that it does get better and that the light is worth fighting for. We don’t only have the strength and Grace to fight for ourselves anymore, but also on behalf of others. This is where we get to intercede.

I feel like I’m using the word “fight” a lot. Let’s be honest though, all you need to do is read daily headlines to know that the world is in a battle now more than ever. It needs people to fight for light. The more people that choose light, the more light shines, and the less darkness there is for those in the midst of it to fight.

If I can make getting out of darkness easier for just one person, then I choose to be the light.

 

Friendship Is An Intentional Commitment

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You know what is life changing? Godly friendships. No I don’t mean the friendship that is godly cuz y’all met at church. I mean an intentional, Godly friendship that requires commitment and effort.

These are actually few and far between, and you’re lucky if you’re blessed with one. The thing is though, it’s not just the blessing that’s bestowed on you, it’s the effort you put into it.

Anyone who knows me and my best friend, will most likely know that where there is Tams, there is Unathi. And vice versa. My husband, Eddie once told me he knew when we started dating that I was a package deal; I came attached to Unathi and two cats.

However, it was not always smooth sailing. In the beginning, Unathi and I fought A LOT. We have different communication styles, love languages, cultural backgrounds and just interests in general. We’re almost total opposites. It took us a long time to figure out how “we” work.

One day after yet another silly argument about something insignificant, Unathi and I sat down and discussed it, and said a decision had to be made. Either we let fighting get the best of us, or we acknowledge that God put us in each other’s lives for a reason, our friendship was godly, and we’d fight for it no matter what.

From the moment we made that decision there was no doubt. Sure we still had fights; anyone close to us would remember some of the doozies. But. No matter how bad the fight, or how mad we were, or how long we didn’t speak, we both knew that we couldn’t NOT be friends. We just were.

And we fought to keep it that way. We put aside our pride. We learned to communicate with each other in a way that works for us both. We learned to be more open towards each other’s perspective. We chose to put our friendship first. We fought less and learned more.

All because we decided that God was the centre of our friendship.

She has my back like no other (Except maybe Eddie. Between the two of them I feel like I have bodyguards), she keeps me grounded, she keeps me accountable, she helps me in my walk with God. She was a fantastic bridesmaid and a great encouragement in my new walk as a wife; where she had to make space for my husband to be before her and did so with grace.

God has taught me a lot about loving others, appreciating others, friendship, and relationships and how all of these things are a blessing. And He taught me through this friendship. A godly friendship.

Don’t Let It Out, Let It Go

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From the morning traffic when someone cuts you off, to the tenth person who bumps into you at the store without even acknowledging your existence, nevermind apologising; there are many frustrations that we can come across during our daily lives. These frustrations build up leaving us feeling more and more angry. This is when we vent.

Venting is good right? Venting can help you to clear your head, help you let go of what’s on your chest and get empathy from a sympathetic ear. Wrong.

In fact, venting can be incredibly bad for you. When you vent to someone and they agree with you, it actually reinforces your frustration. I’m sure we’ve all had those moments where we vent to friend, and when they agree with us, instead of calming down, we feel justified in going. “Gosh I am so mad at this!”. It makes us feel vindicated and leads to us venting again the next time something frustrates or angers us. Anger begets anger. The more we vent the more angry we get.

I am not one to judge anyone who gets angry. Some major work  had to be done on my part to learn to control my temper, and it’s something I still struggle with and have to keep a tight rein on. I remember very clearly, the first time I got frustrated after I was saved, I hauled out my Bible and looked up scripture on anger and the first thing I found was Proverbs 29:11

“Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.”

And then Ecclesiastes 7:9

“Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool.”

Well, then I did feel rather foolish. I didn’t feel justified in my frustration, I just felt a bit silly, and it tempered my anger. Pun intended.

The biggest problem with anger is that there is always a price to pay for letting that anger out. Before you get angry – in friendships, in relationships, in business, in family – count the cost of that anger.

There are in fact ways to deal with anger or frustration that help you let off steam in a healthier way.

Manage your triggers

We all have triggers. These days people would probably call them “pet peeves” – those things that just set us off at the drop of a hat. One of mine is food. Which I find hilarious. I love food. I’d spend all day thinking about the food I wanted so if I got home and someone had eaten it or we got to a restaurant and they didn’t have it, I’d be really frustrated which then became anger. I learned to lower my expectations a bit, and actually just knowing it was a trigger for me helped me to manage my frustration to the point where it’s seldom a problem for me these days. What are your triggers?

Manage expectations

We all have expectations. Sometimes we have expectations we don’t even know we have – these are usually the ones that get us into trouble. If someone bumps into you, you expect them to apologise because that would be the polite thing to do. Or you expect people to follow the rules of the road. Or you expect good service. Luckily expectations aren’t something we have to take on board, we can take them off of ourselves and leave them with the person in the wrong. “That person should have apologised but they didn’t; I would have but they aren’t me; I choose not to be angry”. This is something that takes a lot of practice. It’s not excusing bad manners or bad service or bad driving – it’s choosing not to let others’ behaviour and actions affect you.

Set a date with your anger

Instead of being angry now, tell yourself, “I’ll be angry later tonight” – once you’ve had a chance to calm down, cool off and think through your anger rationally. You probably won’t need to keep that date by then, but if you do, you’ll have a better handle on it and on how to deal with it in a less destructive way

Have a support system

Choose some people who you can talk to when you feel frustrated or angry. People who will support you and hear you out, but tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear

Write a journal

The best way to get something out is to write it. Just start with random words if that’s all you can manage and let it flow from there. Writing is sometimes the best way to clear your head and your emotions. Write down what your expectations were and how they weren’t met, write down what made you so frustrated and write down that you choose not to let frustration get the better of you. Write down how you can handle situations that frustrate you. Let it all go.

Our Pieces Aren’t God’s Pieces

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Since I attended the Hillsong Colour Conference earlier this year – and I’m confident I’m not alone here – I have been listening to the song “Pieces” by Amanda Cook a lot. It came on today while I was driving; I was thinking about the things I needed to do and wasn’t actively listening. Suddenly I seemed to tune in and felt my eyes well up. I’ve listened to this song repeatedly lately, why now all of a sudden? Was I only giving pieces of myself? That didn’t sit right, so I started the song over. I think I played it four or five times before my heart felt content, that I had found what it was I needed to sit and think about when I got home.

It was this part of the bridge:

Your love’s not fractured

It’s not a troubled mind

It isn’t anxious, it’s not the restless kind

Your love’s not passive

It’s never disengaged

It’s always present

It hangs on every word we say

Your love’s not fractured

Have you ever felt as though you’re fractured? That there are cracks in you waiting to break. I like to think of this as God performing kintsugi. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold, making the object even more beautiful. God’s love for us isn’t fractured, and when we’re feeling fractured and about to break, He’s preparing to fill us and make us more beautiful.

It isn’t anxious

I know a thing or two about anxiety. Two years ago I was diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder. I barely left my flat; grocery shopping was stressful enough to cause a panic attack. I started on meds for the anxiety, but it wasn’t until I gave in and fully surrendered it to God that I really started to get better. Occasionally I still  have moments of panic, but I take a deep breath and I pray and I give it to God and I feel better. I take on more all the time, with His help.

It’s not the restless kind

Sometimes everything is going well; you’ve got everything you need, you’re abundantly blessed, but you’re still waiting for God to use you and you feel….restless. You’d think you would feel restless when things aren’t going your way, however I think it’s occasionally contentment that fosters restlessness. I don’t think God wants us content. He wants us on fire. On fire for Him, His Kingdom, and down on our knees constantly seeking that passionate fire to do His will. As the song says, “…While I’m waiting, I’m not waiting…” – don’t wait contentedly, wait passionately.

Your love’s not passive

I tend to think of passive as inactive, which isn’t entirely incorrect but when I looked up the definition it gave me a whole different perspective:

1.    adjective

If you describe someone as passive, you mean that they do not take action but instead let things happen to them.

2.    adjective

A passive activity involves watching, looking at, or listening to things rather than doing things.

Wow. I could write an entirely new post now on how God’s love isn’t passive. Are we passive though? In love, in relationships, in our time with God? Or are we active and intentional in all we do; in friendship, in daily tasks, in talking to God? Active isn’t a word I’d use to describe myself, “nap-loving” would be more accurate, but I’d rather be active than passive.

It’s never disengaged

When we’re going about our daily lives, going to work, serving at church and balancing friends and loved ones, it’s easy to fall into routine or pattern. Routine is usually a good thing, but when something becomes routine we tend to disengage. Grow detached. We can find ourselves watching our lives go past instead of actively engaging in each and every moment.

It’s always present

This is kind of a lead-on from being disengaged. When we’re disengaged we aren’t present. We aren’t always there. If we aren’t present, we can miss out on an opportunity to hear from God, or to minister to someone, or to lead someone to God. We could miss out on encouragement from God when we most need it or the chance to encourage others for God.

It hangs on every word you say

This is a tough one for me. As someone with a short attention span, I have to actively make sure that I listen; to God, to His Word, in church, in relationships. You can’t sit back and say, “Okay God speak to me” and expect amazing revelation. You have to lean in, focus yourself and say, “God I am ready and willing to listen to you”.

 

When I sit and contemplate the bridge, I think that this part of the song stuck out for me because these are all things I find myself feeling from time to time: fractured, anxious, restless, passive, disengaged, not always present or listening. And that’s okay. Our “pieces” aren’t God’s “pieces”. God isn’t any of those things. His love isn’t any of those things. When we have our moments of being any one of those, God’s love and Grace has us covered. When we feel that way, all we have to do is turn to God and give it to Him, and He will renew us.

 

Choose Good Stories

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Walking in the mall recently, I was stopped dead in my tracks. Not because I saw something that I just had to have, but because of a slogan that I saw on a top. This top simply said, “Good choices make bad stories.” I was incredulous, and pretty annoyed. This is what retail is touting to the youth?

It made me think of one of my favourite quotes from Doctor Who,

We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?”.

The sentiment of these two phrases is similar, and yet the connotation is leagues apart.

You know, I have many stories from the days before I was saved; good ones, crazy ones, embarrassing ones, awesome ones. Not one of those stories though makes me think “the choices I made that led me to becoming an angry, depressed alcoholic were so worth it for those stories.”

No. In fact, since I started making good choices for myself, I think that my stories have gotten even better. My stories have substance. They have faith, love and the ability to help others and maybe make a difference to others’ lives.

Once you make good choices for yourself, you also create in yourself the capacity to make good choices for others. What I mean by that is, your choices can then be for the benefit of others.

The Bible is full of great stories, and I can honestly say that the stories that impact me are the ones where someone makes the good choice.

So back to the shopping mall; the sad part is, this isn’t an isolated thing. This isn’t the only top out there encouraging youth to make bad decisions or excusing bad or even dangerous behaviour.

In recent years the term YOLO has assaulted all of our ears. Once again it has a similar sentiment to “carpe diem” and yet so much more damaging for our youth to follow. Carpe Diem is about seizing every moment and day of your life and living it to the fullest; YOLO is a way to justify doing something stupid.

I look at young people today and everything that is thrown at them, from social media to clothes and entertainment – very little of this encourages them to make good choices, the right choices, the patient choices. It almost terrifies me that I will one day have to raise children in this.

Do you know what gives me hope though, when this fear strikes? God. Church. I know the environment my children will be raised in; that family that is our church. It gives me hope for our children that despite all that is thrown at them, God will equip them to make good choices and good stories.

I’m going to leave you with three examples from the Bible, from fiction, and from real life, where someone made the difficult but good choice and came out with a great story.

Esther 

The story of Esther is one of my favourite in the Bible. It has everything a good story could want; love, faith, courage, adversity, intrigue. Esther chose to go to the King even though it could mean her death. She chose her people and her faith, and saved her people from death.

Bilbo Baggins

Bilbo was happy in the Shire. He didn’t want to leave the comfort of his home and the routine of his daily life. However, he eventually agreed to help the dwarves and Gandalf, and we all know about his exciting adventures in The Hobbit that made him wiser and more confident.

Desmond Doss

Desmond went to war and refused to carry a weapon. He was a conscientious objector because of his faith and faced adversity for this choice. However, he stuck with it, saved many lives and became the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honour. His story became the movie, Hacksaw Ridge.

 

Chronic Illness: Awareness and Understanding Are Key

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Chronic illness and mental illness are two things that still have a major stigma attached to them, not just in church but in general life too. As someone who has suffered from both, I can honestly say it’s a tough path to walk and the support you get is what either paves that path and makes it smoother, or makes it feel filled with potholes.

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) when I was 13. It’s commonly known as “yuppie flu”, a term which those of us, who suffer from it, find really derogatory. I’m not a ’90’s suit’ holding a brick sized mobile phone, feeling sorry for myself yet that’s what that term makes me think of.

CFS is actually really debilitating and limiting; in fact I’m lucky because I’m not bedridden as many are. It’s a truly tough line to walk though. To manage it; to make sure that I don’t crash. I go for booster neurobian shots every few weeks (they pack a punch and a sting to go with it). I train with a biokineticist, because left to my own devices, I either tire myself out too much or I don’t do enough exercise; if I push too much I’m drained for the rest of the day. If I don’t get enough sleep, my immune system dips and I get sick, so I stress about getting enough sleep.

It’s hard to explain what it feels like when it makes you ill. The best way to describe it is that it feels like a bad hangover but without having drunk anything. Headaches are a frequent part of my life whenever I get tired.

It’s okay though, I’ve lived with it for almost twenty years; I think I have a handle on it for the most part. What I don’t have a handle on is how others react to it or treat me because of it. The biggest problem is that people just don’t understand. I’m not tired. You know how you feel when you are totally burned out? That’s my normal functioning mode; that is my daily life and what I’m trying to manage.

The book and subsequent movie, Unbroken, about Louis Zamperini was written by Laura Hillenbrand. Laura suffers from CFS and she wrote the whole book from her bed. She inspired me to write more, and consider how I could make an income in ways that would work for me. You see, working a full-time job when you need a nap once or even twice a day is a bit problematic. It also presents you with a dilemma: are you forthcoming with potential employers about it? The couple of times I was honest and open about it, it was thrown in my face and used against me. This in turn made me try to hide it from most people.

In the beginning, I don’t think even my parents truly understood or knew how to deal with me. I didn’t know how to deal with my own moods from being tired. As I got older though, and learnt more about myself, more about the illness, and how to relate to others in regard to it, things got better. I’m extremely blessed because I have the most understanding and supportive parents anyone could ever wish for. Just knowing that they get it, makes me feel so much better.

My best friend and my fiancé are my other two strongest supports. I rarely have to explain myself to either of them because they just know. My best friend taught me things about myself, my “tells” when I’m tired, that I didn’t even realise myself. Knowing these helped me to manage my moods and know how to relate to people better when I’m tired. My fiancé is one of the biggest blessings in my life. I spent most of my years growing up thinking, “Who would ever want to be with someone who would never be able to contribute as much financially to a marriage?”. It never even stumped him; we’d just make it work. His confidence in me, the way he loves me and cares for me, gives me confidence in myself and us as a couple.

Now I tend to be straightforward with anyone I’m building a relationship with – friends, leaders, church family. I don’t want sympathy, or pity.  What I want is awareness and understanding. I want to create awareness about CFS so that the stigma around chronic illness is lessened even just that tiny bit. If I can help everyone around me to understand and know how to support anyone they meet who has CFS or any other chronic or mental illness, then I’ve met my goal.

13 Reasons Why Not (Plus 2)

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By now you’ve probably seen or heard of 13 Reasons Why. It’s been everywhere and has been hailed for getting people talking about bullying, depression and suicide.

I’m going to be honest, I didn’t like the show. I felt no empathy for the main character and found her unlikeable.

My reaction to the show actually surprised me somewhat. As someone who has suffered from depression and been suicidal, I thought I’d empathise more with Hannah Baker. I’m going to say something incredibly unpopular now, I felt as though she made bad choices and then blamed others for those choices and then shamed them with the tapes she made. Yes some truly bad things did happen to her I’m not denying that. However I felt the show did a disservice to people who suffer from depression and who get bullied; it glorified outing people for bad behaviour, post mortem. That doesn’t do anything to help the people suffering or give them hope that their suffering will end. How many teens are now going to be making tapes of their own instead of looking for help?

Hannah Baker gave you thirteen reasons why she killed herself.

I’m going to give you fifteen reasons why you shouldn’t.

1. It gets better

It’s the most cliched thing in the world, but the truth is, it really does get better. Right now you may want to smack me for saying that, and think I know nothing. However, one day you will find yourself saying that too, and you’ll know how true it is.

2. Someone cares

Even if there’s just one person in your life, they care. Almost ten years after I tried to kill myself, I don’t feel the desperation anymore not to want to deal with another day. I do still feel the anger and pain of my family and friends; that’s something I will never forget.

3. The world is ugly but it’s not everyone

I remember how much I hated the world; humans are selfish and society is ugly and I didn’t want to live in it. I found good people and mentors who remind me through who they are that yes the world is ugly, but not EVERY one is. There are amazing and brave people walking around everywhere, seek them out.

4. You would miss out

I told a friend that I never wanted to reach 30. I turn 32 soon, and next month I’m marrying the kindest man in the world, I have wonderful friends, an awesome church and my life is better than ever. I’d have missed all of this if I had had my way at 23.

5. You haven’t had your best days yet

I had to hit rock bottom, but when I did, I somehow managed to pick myself up and then I started having okay days. Better days. Good days. Great days. The best days. It takes time, but those days do come. I’m not saying you won’t have bad days anymore, you will. But the good days will outweigh the bad.

6. You have the power to change your life

I’ve never felt more powerless than when I was depressed. At times I felt like I was going crazy. Changing that though, is something you can do. It could be something so very very small. Find one thing that you don’t like in your life, and change it. It’s the first step. Then take another.

7. You can fake it til you make it 

I got to a point where I decided, okay I’m going to see how long I can keep a stupid smile on my face and convince people that I was okay. I aimed for a day. Then a week. Then a month. Eventually I realised I wasn’t really faking it anymore.

8. You can get rid of toxic people

We all have those people in our lives, that bring you down, that thrive on drama. Or maybe it’s just someone you like to be around because their misery matches yours. This is toxic. Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do for yourself is cut a toxic person out of your life

9. Your pain now, can help someone else later

Two years ago I did a course for anxiety and depression. I was struggling with anxiety but most of the group were dealing with depression. When I saw that my testimony about coming through depression helped others in the group, it really lifted my heart and made me want to help others.

10. You will come out of this stronger

It was an awful thing to go through, there were days when it weighed me down so much I didn’t even have the energy to speak. It shaped me though, and made me stronger. It made me tougher and yet more compassionate; it made me a better person.

11. Strangely, one day you’ll be grateful for what you’re going through 

I wouldn’t be who I am today and have the relationships I have, if I hadn’t struggled with depression for years. The biggest thing that taught me is that I am an overcomer. I appreciate who I am now for what I went through.

12. Your happiness isn’t the responsibility of others and theirs isn’t your responsibility 

No one else can make this better for you. It’s a tough pill to swallow but it’s also freeing. You cannot make everyone happy, but you can be in charge of your own happiness. It’s not selfish to put your happiness first when you’re  depressed, it’s self preservation. For me this meant putting my happiness in my own hands at the time; and now in the hands of God, which makes me even happier.

13. People love you and they will say the wrong thing

This is something I struggled with so much when I was depressed. Why didn’t anyone ever say anything helpful? Honestly, because nothing they say will make you feel better. There is nothing they can say that will be right or enough. Afterwards though, you’ll remember that they tried and you’ll be grateful.

14. Life has its seasons 

I have gone through so many seasons of life. Some were good, some were bad, some were awful and some were fantastic. I changed through each season, and I’m still changing. You won’t always be where you are now. Things will change, you will change, many times over. Each season has its place in your life and its lesson to teach. Don’t miss out on all the wonderful seasons to come, all the different people you’ll be, all the ways your likes and dislikes will change. It’s the exciting part of life.

15. YOU.
You are beautiful, you are strong, you are capable, you can overcome, you have so much to give, you are not done, you are loved, you are special; and most importantly, the world would be less without you.

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