Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lesson 8 from Sarah's School of Dating

In the last two lessons I wrote about the importance of finding a partner who is Christian, of the opposite sex, free to marry, and not a blood relative.  That this still leaves a heck of a lot of potential spouses to choose from. The last lesson was about 'secondary factors' i.e. having things in common, and heading in the same direction in life.

Ok, so you've found someone to date who meets all of those criteria. Not to mention they are a godly person keen to follow the Lord Jesus wherever He takes them. You think this person could possibly be 'the one'.

But someone else disagrees.

Yes, this post is about when you experience opposition to your relationship.

In many ways, this is one of the hardest posts I will probably ever write. You may have read all of my dating posts and thought Sarah knows crap all about dating. Well, that's fine.  I probably have crapped on about a lot of things, but I do have experience with this topic. I have eluded to it on my blog many times and with this post it will probably all make sense. The post on inviting enemies to parties, how the first few months of my relationship with Duncan were so difficult for both of us, how someone wanted us to break up, the series I did on forgiveness. We've 'lived' this post.

I know some people reading this will know exactly the person and the events I am referring to. I also know some will not approve of me putting this on the net, believing it should be forgotten about and never mentioned again. But I can't do that. I believe God gives us painful experiences for a reason, and one of those reasons is to bring help and healing to those who are going through something similar. If you're experiencing opposition to your relationship and have done nothing wrong (such as running off with someone else's partner, for example) then please be assured that you are NOT alone. Unfortunately our experience is more common in churches than it should be. I will not mention names in this post. I will simply try to relay my experiences and feelings from two years ago, and what I have learnt from that time.

This is our story.....

It all began on the 5th January 2007 when Duncan and I became a couple. I was ecstatic to say the least. Two days later, trouble started.

I told a friend at church that I was going out with Duncan. I thought she'd be happy. I couldn't have been more wrong. I was told that Duncan and I weren't right for each other, that he was bad, that she couldn't be happy for me, that I was making a huge mistake. I was stunned, disappointed and a bit annoyed, but not too fazed at the time. She'd get over it. There was no way I was going to break up with my hot new man.

The next day at work, the text messages started. More of the same. That she couldn't be my friend anymore until Duncan and I were no longer together. That she was 'concerned' for me. That she knew things about Duncan - bad things - that I didn't know and it was her duty to warn me. I always left my mobile on at work in case of emergencies, but then it started ringing. Apparently this person had been ringing a mutual friend of ours and told her to ring me and pass on what she had said. To say the least, I absolutely lost it at this mutual friend. I told her that if this person wanted to speak to me she could jolly well ring me herself instead of using other people to pass on messages and sending texts all the time, that it was cowardly. And I did NOT want them to call me at work.

My workmates were now very confused and curious about what was going on. When I explained it to them, they told me I should punch this person in the head. It was very tempting, but not a good idea. The texts kept coming when I got home, but I'll never know just how many were sent because my phone was stuffed at the time. Sometimes only half a text came through and, as soon as I read it, I had to delete it, otherwise no-one else could text me. It was a problem with the phone's memory, I think. It might have just been a blessing in disguise.

So the first couple of weeks of our relationship, the time when it should have been fun and exciting, were spent on the phone to this person, trying to appease them while I just got more of the same - that Duncan wasn't what he appeared, that I'd end up hurt. I felt angry and patronised, but then the worst thing happened - I started to doubt my man. I actually started to wonder if there was some truth behind what this person was saying. The seed of doubt had been sown. Duncan and I spent many hours of the phone, agonising over the future of our relationship which was just days old. He'd received texts too, threatening that he'd be bashed up if he hurt me. He'd just laughed about that one, but he did say that it was frustrating because he was three hours away and that he felt his reputation was taking a battering in the church, and he couldn't defend himself.

At this stage, everyone who knew about our relationship had been most supportive and pleased for us. Some people reckoned we made a great match. One friend admitted she'd contemplated setting us up before. These comments were coming from godly people in my church who I respect. But still I doubted.

Two weeks into our relationship, we went to the wedding of some good friends. There we were ignored and glared at by this person. We were on the same reception table which was most uncomfortable, but I didn't dare say anything to the newlyweds. It was their wedding and they didn't need any more stress, but, apparently, just days before the wedding, they became aware of the situation. We have received nothing but support from this couple since Day One and we consider them among our closest friends.  They were there for us when everything was very tough.

At the reception, I became sick and had to lie down for the last half of it. Although I didn't feel overly stressed, I think a fortnight of stress had taken its toll on my body and I broke down. Stress really can make you sick!

 The text messages started to die off after that, but the person still didn't approve of our relationship. We had to sneak into an engagement party because this person said that if we showed up we'd be very sorry. Now I think the Sarah of 2009 would have just said "Stuff you!" and rocked up with her man on her arm, but I was so stressed and confused, I made some silly decisions. I was desperate to keep the situation a secret from my church. I don't know why, but I thought I could handle it myself. But gradually more and more people found out, including our pastor, and offered us support. I am still grateful to those people to this day. One friend said that if we were to break up, then it shouldn't be because someone decided they didn't like it, it should be because we weren't right for each other. Another told me that I was so strong, that they'd be tempted just to break up with the guy to get some peace and be left alone. I was far from strong, but I think that was my dilemma. I didn't want to break up with Duncan.  I just wanted the whole scenario to be over and was willing to make some rash decisions to stop the stress.

Then what Duncan and I called the 'fog' started. My head was a mess. I couldn't go to church without being scowled at and ignored by this person.  I had to sit in front of them so I could concentrate on the sermon. It was suggested to me that I change churches until it all blew over, but I refused. I liked my church. I wasn't going to run away. I think this whole experience was why I was very hesistant about our engagement at first because this person had told me a few months earlier that if we ever got engaged, we could expect more of the same treatment. Basically, my feelings would fluctuate between being in love with Duncan and feeling we should break up. I was so worried and so confused, it became taxing on my health. Some close friends knew how I was feeling, but I tried to keep it hidden from most people. This time was very hard on Duncan because it felt like he was going out with two different Sarahs - one who was enthusiastic about the relationship, and the other who he felt could break up with him at any moment. He told me he loved me, but I couldn't say it back because I didn't know how much longer the relationship would continue. The 'fog' was torture and it lasted several months. I remember one afternoon I was on annual leave from work.  Duncan and I were watching a movie at my house, and I just started shaking, and my teeth felt like they were chattering. I tried to tell myself that I was on HOLIDAYS, and I shouldn't be feeling stressed and panicky all the time, but my body would not listen to my head.

The 'fog' came to a head when Duncan met my family in Albany for the first time. On the morning we headed home, I broke down in tears. My mum couldn't understand why I was considering breaking up with such a great guy. I had told her nothing at this stage because she had been very anti-Christian and thought all Christians were loony tunes.  I didn't want her to think all Christians tried to break up people in relationships. That was another mistake. I really needed her support, and when I finally told her, she was very angry at this person because she knew her personally and liked her. My mum is fierce hehe.

That day was a turning point. A friend persuaded me to meet up with a woman at her church who is a counsellor, and it was the best decision I made. The counsellor helped me see that this was NOT my fault, that I was not a bad person and neither was Duncan for becoming a couple, and that it happens in churches more often than I had realised - two people get together and a third party (usually a single) has 'issues' with it. Duncan and I were free to marry if we chose and no-one else could dictate whether we did or not. We read Scripture together and she prayed for me.  I began to feel better and more together for the first time in months.

Eventually the pastor and elders intervened and the person left the church. I am saddened by what happened to this friendship, but I was made to choose - the friend or the man - and, well, it's obvious who I chose, isn't it? If I had to make the same choice again, I would, but it isn't easy when you're the person making the choice. I have witnessed situations before where there's been a 'love triangle' at church, but I never ever thought I'd be a part of one. A close friend went through a tough time when she started going out with her boyfriend (now husband); she copped a lot of flak from his ex and kept getting emails from this girl saying that he was evil etc. They held on and weathered the storm and the ex-girlfriend eventually left the church. This friend was a valuable support to me which is why I believe God gives us horrible experiences for a reason.  Not so we can shove them away and never talk about them again, or bitch about the people involved, but so we can use them to help others.

While I am sad at the loss of what I considered a good friendship, I would not change anything. I think the whole experience has 'hardened' me, and I'm not sure if that's good or bad. I think the Sarah of 2008/2009 would advise the Sarah of 2007 to tell anyone who was interfering without a valid reason to go shove it where they can't see the light of day! That's why when I hear people bitching about couples, saying they aren't right for each other, I get VERY angry, and tell them that if they don't have a good reason for these statements they should keep their nasty little mouths shut. Unless there is a good reason to be worried about someone's relationship (such as one person is not Christian or recently separated, living a secret ungodly lifestyle etc) then our opinions are merely that...OPINIONS. I remember when people started commenting when a couple of friends of ours got together because she was 10 years older. I mean, what does that matter? They're a great couple and really suit each other. I'm sick and tired of people making judgements unnecessarily.

Part of me is still sad that Duncan and I 'lost' the first few months of our relationship, a time where we should have been having fun and enjoying getting to know each other. But we can't change the past. We've moved on. The friendship is still not what it was and, to be honest, I don't want it to be. I'm happy to chat to this person if we see each other through mutual friends, but the events of early 2007 soured things and I'm more wary about trusting people now.

Here is my advice to couples facing opposition:
  • Seek out godly mentors: This is something I wish I'd done when I was single. If you're single, look around your church and witness who are the godly people. Which couples by the fruit of their lives would you want to speak into your life and give you relationship advice? And yes I said couples because they are the ones who generally have more relationship experience. I'm not meaning to offend singles here but this experience has made me wary. If a godly couple sees something wrong in your relationship they would usually have a good reason. There have been too many cases where a single's 'advice' has been based on them wanting their friend's partner for themselves or not wanting their friend to have a partner if they can't.
  • Don't listen to everybody: I used to think we need to let anyone who's a Christian speak into our lives. Bollocks! You need to pick and choose who you listen to. What is their motivation for opposing your relationship? Are they living a godly life? You do NOT have to take advice from all your Christian friends. Do not listen to everyone's opinions.  It will do your head in.
  • Listen to what God says in His Word: If you have met someone who is godly and meets the criteria, then go for it. Don't listen to meddling people who say you aren't right for each other. That's for you to decide. God has told us what is important to look for in a spouse, and He entrusts his children to make wise decisions.
  • Don't put pressure on yourself to know too soon: I think part of my problem with the 'fog' was that I was putting so much pressure on myself to know whether Duncan was 'the one' too soon. I felt like I needed some 'sign' to know if we should be married so I would know whether all this stress was worth it. Try to take it slow, despite the opposition and pressure.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice: Yes, if you're single that might mean you have to put on a happy face for a friend who's in a new relationship despite your despair at your own singleness. I'm sorry to say when I was single that I did not rejoice with my friends who met their life partners before I did. I didn't oppose them, but I was so wrapped up in my own problems that I could have been more supportive. Other people have often had to wait a long time too.
  • Sometimes we have to intervene: Too often we see conflict and then stick our heads in the sand, thinking we shouldn't get involved because it doesn't concern us. Sometimes we need to get involved, however uncomfortable it may be. I don't know where I'd be if people hadn't intervened.
  • Pray and read the Bible: A friend shared with me Philippians 4:6-7 which was a great comfort. Even when I was too woolly-headed to pray, knowing that others were praying for our relationship still makes me praise God to this day.
I told Duncan tonight that I'm so glad things turned out the way they did, and that I shudder when I think I could have broken up with such a godly, caring man. If you're facing opposition with no good reason behind it, then cling tight to God, and He will get you through the storm.

Congrats if you read through all that. It's also my 400th post. Yay!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Quote of the Day

...that's the strange thing about arguments. At the time they seem very important.
- Dr Edmond Chilton (Richard Egan) in Pollyanna.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Arrr, it's Sarah Scarface!

What a pity it's not International Talk Like a Pirate Day right now. I can talk like one.....and now I look like one.

Here are more post-surgery photos:

With stitches.

Without stitches. I'm happy with how this one is healing.

Unfortunately this one is slightly infected and now looks like a giant pimple. Yuck!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From Head to Hand: 1st? 2nd? 3rd?.....What?

Once you've decided to write a short story, novella (short novel) or novel, you must decide what 'point of view' you want to write in. There are three types of POV.

1st person - This is when you write from the point of view of a character in your story. The advantages are that the reader gets an insight into the characters thoughts, emotions and motives. This is a good POV for people who consider themselves 'character writers'. The downside is that the reader views everything through the lens of that character...although of course that doesn't mean they have to agree with what the character is thinking (e.g. I really don't like Jane Brown. She is so annoying).

2nd person - This is the least used of the three POVs and the one I find the most difficult to explain. I have never written anything in 2nd person but basically it is where the narrator of the story (either the author or one of the characters) is speaking to you as the reader (e.g. I bet you're thinking that right now). It is the POV used for 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books. It's not really my cup of tea but each to their own in this case.

3rd person - This is where the author is the narrator and assumes an overarching 'God-like' position. The author may choose to focus on the thoughts and feelings of one character (e.g. Wayne felt his jugular was about to burst) or change between characters. Usually it is the former but I recently read Territory by Judy Nunn (a brilliant book which I highly recommend) and she changes between characters so you get a fair idea of what is going through each character's mind but she remains the storyteller. In my book, I am writing in 3rd person and it is from the POV of my main character, Brad, so there is no scene without Brad in it. 3rd person is especially good for those who consider themselves 'plot writers'.

Have a play around and see which POV suits you best. Personally, I prefer either 1st or 3rd POV (I intend my next book to be written in 1st person). If you want to read more about POVs then just Google the terms. There are heaps of sites out there which probably explain things better than I do.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Mummy

After last month's debacle, I finally had my surgery today.

Now I'm home and feeling fine except for looking like a bit of a freak.

The best part was that I ended up paying far less than what I was originally quoted. I was told it would cost $762.50 and that I would get $312 back from Medicare. Well, for some reason I only had to pay $386.05 and I get over $100 back. I'm not sure why they suddenly dropped their prices so much but I'm not complaining. It feels like justice after they stuffed me around last time.

I'm just so so glad it's over!

Here are some photos:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Back to School

When I finished uni at the end of 2004, I said, "Right, that's it! No more study! No more! Never!"

Never say never.
A few weeks ago, I enrolled in TAFE studying Certificate 2 in Business. For those of you who are thinking that sounds very boring or that it's not very 'me', it's actually not too bad. Why am I studying business? Well, last year I applied for admin jobs and didn't get any of them probably since I have no experience. That coupled with the realisation that we'll probably never return to the city have made me think that I need to be more employable for positions commonly advertised in small country towns....admin being one of them. Unfortunately a lot of little places don't seem to have any need for librarians.

So I'm a student again, studying part-time and externally which will probably take a couple of years. I submitted my first assignment last week....eeeeek! While parts of the course look very basic, I don't want to get too cocky and look stupid for failing the easiest of tasks.
I will say one thing though....I am NEVER going to back to uni!

Textbook #1

Textbook #2.  I need to order Textbook #3.

Some study guides.

Me doing my best impression of a study nerd
(wearing Duncan's glasses)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Has Facebook Killed the Blogging Star?

I've written about my struggles to get people to comment on this blog numerous times before. On Facebook, however, it is a different story. Often the comments flow thick and fast about even the most menial status updates but when I write a post that's deep and meaningful, suddenly many of the commenters are nowhere to be found.

Yes, I'm pointing my finger at YOU Facebook!

I interact with many people on Facebook and far less on this blog although some I have the pleasure of interacting with on both. The problem I see is that many bloggers spend more time on Facebook than they do on their blogs and gradually most of my interaction with fellow bloggers is occurring on the forementioned beast. I really hope Facebook does not 'replace' blogging as I believe that would be a tremendous shame. On Facebook you can do a quick status update about nothing but by blogging you get to share much more than 'Sarah had toast for breakfast'.

Perhaps that's why Facebook is gradually 'luring' many bloggers away from their blogs. Now I know that many of us (myself included) endeavour to interact regularly on both but I think the lure of Facebook is that enables us to say not very much in a small amount of time with less thought put into it. Perhaps this also suits many people today who love shallow conversation but when the topic turns deep and personal, they slink away scared.

Here are my tips (from experience) about how to get people to interact with you on your blog rather than Facebook:
  • Post about something on your blog before you announce it on Facebook. Otherwise people will not bother leaving a comment on your blog because they have already Facebooked you about it.
  • Ditto with photos.
  • Link to your blog from your Facebook profile (although I have chosen not to do this because I am a bit picky with my readership).
  • Don't abandon your blog, keep updating it regularly.

P.S. This doesn't mean I want you to ignore me on Facebook :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

True Colours

Look, my fingers are slightly green.

Yes, your suspicions have been confirmed. My camouflage is lifting and it's time to reveal the truth.


*insert creepy space music here*

(Actually the green is from yesterday's encounter with some fabric dye.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cornerstone 09

I did end up going to Cornerstone despite feeling so down the week before. In short, I'm very glad I did go because a weekend of focusing on God's Word without the usual distractions of life was just what I needed. I came away from the weekend refreshed and with a new zeal to keep following the Lord Jesus even when I don't understand why he allows some things to happen.
Here is the pictorial evidence from the weekend.

My man looking sad or tired or possibly both.

Mick and Ben.
Jill and Olivia.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Pendulum: Christians and Defacto Guests

Duncan and I were having a long discussion on the weekend about a possible dilemma we could soon face.

Since we're in the middle of nowhere, when guests come to visit from Perth or elsewhere they really have no choice but to stay with us. There is no other accommodation in Buntine and Dalwallinu is about 50km away which isn't practical if we want to spend time with them.

The issue we were discussing is what do we do when a defacto couple want to stay with us?
Obviously, we're Christians and we believe sex is for marriage between a man and a woman but how do we relate to defacto couples with both grace and truth? Should we put them in separate beds (we have two spare rooms) or just let them have the double bed? I realise this issue might be different if we had adult children who were in defacto relationships and wanted to bring their partner with them to stay with us. In this instance we, as their parents, have some authority over them because it is our house and they are to honour our wishes. But if the couple are two adults who are family or friends, what do we do then?

One on hand, I am leaning towards just letting them have the double bed even though I don't agree with their lifestyle. They are adults and it's their lives and how they choose to live is up to them. It makes me feel preachy or like a mother figure telling them what to do.

But on the other hand, I am wondering if just letting them do what they want is like giving a thumbs up to sex before marriage or indicating that while I have my beliefs, I don't care about how they live. Also it is our house and I guess we do have some rights to enforce limits on our guests like asking a smoker to smoke outside for example.

Basically I want to love these couples and do what is pleasing in God's sight. Obviously my main prayer is for them to know God. What would you do in this situation? Or have you already been in a similar one? Please vote in the poll on the right.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Down South

Here are some piccies from our week long holiday in Dunsborough in January. We spent a week in Perth after that as well.

Wow, who are these hot people? ;)

Beautiful Bunker Bay.

Beach babe hehe ;)

Prevelly Beach near Margaret River.
We met up with some Perth friends who were camping down south. Here are David and Isabel.
Stephanie and Jill at Colonial Brewery.
Me, Richard, John and Ben.
I love to have a beer with Duncan :)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


There are the usual 'isms' when it comes to discrimination and ridicule - sexism, racism, fatism, ableism......

And then there's ageism.

Ageism is when people discriminate or ridicule another person based on their age. It is most commonly used to refer to discrimination against older people but I think people seldom consider the effect it has on the young.

That's what I'm going to blog about.

It is something I've been thinking about for a while. I'm 25 and while I'm not as young as some people, in the grand scheme of things I am still considered quite young. In regards to the Bible verse I posted yesterday, it doesn't leave a lot of room for Christian young people to be silly and immature. No, we are called to set an example for fellow believers in the way we live. It is quite remarkable that this verse asks me to set an example for those who are much older and considered more mature and experienced. That's a big ask but it's an example I really want to set. Not so I can be seen as a super Christian but because that is the life the Lord has set me free to live.

But in reality, I have found it to be a tough walk when ageism creeps into the picture. Having youth on my side is a great feeling, it brings me joy and enthusiasm for life (most of the time). Yet, it seems that as I strive to be a godly young person there will always be others waiting to tear me down simply because of my age. It doesn't matter how mature I am, how wise I am, how godly I am, even if I actually have more experience in an area.....to some people I will always be silly little Sarah. I hate patronising behaviour and it seems I will never be able to prove myself to these people. I can never catch up to their age - I will get older but so will they. In my relatively short adult life, I have been patronised at uni, at work and sadly, even at church.

The surprising thing is that is isn't usually 'old' people who are doing the patronising, it's those who are often less than a decade older than myself! I have mostly been patronised by people in their 30s....people with only slightly more life experience. I don't get it; I could almost understand being patronised by a woman in her 70s but people in their 30s? Why do they do this? I was thinking perhaps some people are sensitive about their age (even though I would never consider them 'old' by any means) so they lash out in their jealousy at my youth to take the spotlight off their own insecurities. I have also discovered that these people are happy for me to lead, to show them things they don't know, to carry the load but once I've finished I'm back to being a child in their eyes. Some people have cracked stupid jokes such as "Sarah's too little to do this with us" and it really riles me when I'm the youngest and there are people there who are only too happy to point it out. And I should also point out that most of the people who have patronised me are women. I have found older men mostly to be nothing but encouraging. It's women that seem to delight in tearing younger women down.

Ageism is ridiculous. A person being older should mean that they have more wisdom but sadly they often do not. Life experience doesn't equal more wisdom. Some people never learn from their mistakes. There are some very mature 18-year-olds out there and some pretty immature 40-year-olds. I believe in taking people at face value, not making assumptions or picking on them because of their age. Let their life do the talking. I would never want to be ageist against an 18-year-old. It's sad that churches talk so much about the value of the youth in their congregations but instead of encouraging too often they are torn to pieces by bitter patronising people who should be mentoring them and building them up. I have often felt for young pastors who are patronised and their leadership disrespected by older members of their congregation. We are also told to respect older people but it must be hard for a 30-something year old guy to have a 70-year-old come up to them and say, "You young whipper snapper, you don't know anything." Obviously this is especially relevant to Timothy, the young pastor, to whom Paul wrote this letter.

As I get older, one of the most fabulous things is the diversity of my friends. I have friends ranging in age from their early 20s to early 40s. This is such a blessing and it shows how much age isn't really an issue. Instead of tearing down your younger friends, think of ways in which you can encourage them as young people. If you have issues with getting older, then deal with them - don't take it out on others.

So what encouragement does 1 Timothy 4:12 have for young people. Well, it gives me enormous responsibility for the way I live. The verse says don't let anyone look down on you because you are young. We can let those ridiculers be shamed by the godliness we display in our lives. Don't try to please them, chances are you never will. That is a big mistake I've made. Instead fix your eyes on God as he is the one who will say "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Monday, March 02, 2009

Bible Verse of the Day

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12