Plan A Has No Plan B

The investment I have into the best interests of my children is a pivotal part of my Plan A. Meeting their needs and supporting them on their own journeys of empowerment provides me with deep, defining satisfaction. Choosing thoughts, words and actions which bring this value to life makes me more complete as a person. At every stage of their lives their needs have been my priority, my energy, and my delight. My children are central to my Plan A, leaving no room for Plan B.

Many of us know that loving our children is often times much easier than raising them. If we are honest we can admit that on some days, our love for them flows easiest when they are asleep. I often marvel at how deep that well of love must go, because I am yet to reach the bottom of it. Sometimes though, it feels like I am plummeting to my demise at a thousand miles an hour.

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Zac’s first attempt at running away took him as far as our letterbox when he was 9

Loving Zac has been a bit like this. He is one of the most reflective, soft-hearted, sensitive people that I know. He likes warmth, security, and predictability. He struggles with change, transitions, and imposed expectations. As a result of all this, the concept of growing up in our blended family was not something he accepted until he was a young man. For years we battled the challenges that stemmed from Zac’s raw hurt and confusion. While I had every understanding of Zac’s pain, his brokenness brought behaviours that pushed our family to its own breaking point.

Zac expressed his rejection of our family situation through hateful words of abuse, lies and deceit, and violent actions of tantrums, theft, and physical confrontation. Zac’s fight or flight responses grew stronger over the years, with school truancy and running away from home scaring us almost as much as the material damage he would cause by throwing and destroying things. Zac’s childhood, and our journey as parents, was marked by bitter conflict, blistering emotions, and searing angst. I often doubted our ability to get through.

Zac was 4 when I left his dad, and 7 when we married Alec. At this young age, Zac had a hard time processing the new version of family that he belonged to. His adjustment problem initiated years of chaos in our family. While we all experienced the pain, unfortunately, Zac’s first line of attack was against Alec who withstood onslaught after endless onslaught of Zac’s worst tirades. It is important to understand that Zac didn’t hate Alec. He hated the divorce, and he hated having a step-father. It wasn’t Alec that Zac rejected, it was what Alec represented to Zac: separation from his dad, an imperfect family structure, and a lack of certainty in the place he needed it most. Plan A was to love Zac and provide everything he needed for growth and well-being. Any other alternative was inconceivable. And so, in True Love, we persisted through each season of Zac’s desperate need for security, working to our limits to provide a safe place he could always call home.

A couple of years ago Zac enjoyed a season of reflective recovery that brought closure to some of these horrible memories. As a 19 yr old he addressed the entanglement of this messiness, bravely admitting that his childhood behaviour was intended towards strategic sabotage of his imperfect family. He had healing conversations with all of us, and took the opportunity to apologise to Alec for the heartache that his behaviour caused. This changed their lives forever.

This might all seem frighteningly intimate to you, but Zac has permitted me to share his slice of our story. He agrees that the real life lessons our family has learned about relationship, love, and empowerment are conveyed best in the icky and uncomfortable parts. Each one of us enjoy a family connection that is honest and real, extending space to each other to simply be our developing selves, and offering grace to cover the shortcomings that this will entail.  Our family is built first on a commitment to Love itself as Plan A. Love never falters or fails in any circumstance, and it always accepts the beloved, assuming that each one of us are doing the best we can with what we have. True Love leaves no room for any alternative.

Kerry Anne Nelson Melbourne Speaker

Love Fuels Itself In Service

True love gives. True love showers itself generously, because it regards the other ahead of self. True love does not hold back; by definition it must be expressed in fullness. True love gifts every last drop of capacity in service of the special ones around. True love chooses to lay down personal gain, ambition and agenda to the benefit of the beloved.

I have been blessed to have known love in many of its forms, and I am looking forward to throwing myself at many more. One of the truest expressions of love I have ever known is the love that Alec had for my two children, Zac and Isabelle.

Kerry Anne Nelson Melbourne Speaker

Selfless Sacrifice Draws Out The Deepest Freedom

Alec and I were both 26 when we married. With Isabelle at 4 and Zac at 7, we were all young enough to assume that Alec and I would have biological children of our own at some point. With fresh, wide-eyes we looked forward to everything that marriage had to offer.  For years, this anticipation involved the hope of having children.

Both of us lived to support the other in every ambition. At the end of every semester of my Primary Teaching degree I checked in with Alec, to confirm that he was still on board with my study, and to ensure that the support he extended to me didn’t conflict with his own goals.  For four years he supported me through university, and then I returned the favour by earning an income that supported him through the start up years of his businesses. The love we shared made us want to build the other’s priorities into our everyday lifestyle. That is love.

A few years into my study, my friend Gemma posed a question that stopped me in my tracks: “So Nelso, are you and Alec gonna have kids or not?”

Alec and I had not specifically decided, so I couldn’t provide a definitive response. I took the question home and opened a conversation that would become increasingly robust over the following three years. We looked at the topic from every angle. Our journey to date, our goals for the future, our budget and finances, our time and other commitments, our blended family dynamics. We even looked at the calendar of our next twenty years to weigh longer term implications. We realised that my 40th birthday would commence the most festive year of our life. My big day in July would be followed by Isabelle’s 18th in November, then Alec’s 40th in February the next year, then Zac’s 21st a few days later. This realisation was certainly not the final straw in the decision, but it did stand out!

The conversation lead us to explore the depths of love that bound our family. My love for my children is defining to me, but I already had that, so I personally realised that I didn’t need any more. However, my love for Alec would never have allowed me to make a choice that would rob him of the bliss of loving his own children. Patience is not a natural virtue to me, but the love I had for Alec couldn’t rush the process that this question required. I wanted to give him everything I could to advance his happiness.

Alec’s love for my children extended beyond that of removed step-parent. His investment was evident in everything he did and said, to the point that he actually became that love. People would often comment that Isabelle looked “just like her dad”, but neither of them ever corrected the misunderstanding, because the love they shared made up for its surface level inaccuracies. Alec taught both kids how to ride a bike. He sat with them and did their readers, made their meals, washed their clothes, cheered from the sidelines of their weekend sports, and offered standing ovations at their school performances. He gave them nick names, built them a tree house, saw them through surgeries, and like all of us parents, sacrificed himself to endless taxi duty. He delighted in the good times of movies, camping, holidays, bike rides, turtle races and river swims, but also stood as a pillar of stability in the tough times of groundings, punishments, lectures, coaching sessions and even the odd smack. He fulfilled his wedding vows to them, “with the heart of a loving father”. He was their step-in dad.

It was from this foundation of love that he finally decided that he didn’t want biological children of his own. Over the years of our conversation, he constantly returned to the same resolution: “I already have children”. It really was that simple.  Everything of the investment he had in Zac and Isabelle fulfilled every gift of love he ever wanted to express as a father. His love gave to them selflessly, prioritising their needs over his own, in a way that completed who he was as a person. His love showed me that true love fuels itself on selfless service.

Life is a journey that offers us a never ending flow of opportunities to refine the purity of our hearts. Each moment has the potential to reveal a new insight that true love is compelled to extend beyond its own gain.  True love is not self seeking, but it does stand out. It doesn’t arrogantly shout “Look at me!”, but it does want to be found.  It is not demanding, yet it requires expression. It never dies, because it refuses to surrender its last breath. Spotting true love is like a Where’s Wally picture.  Those red and white stripes do stand out from the rest, but to find it, you really do have to search past the busy, over-crowded world we live in.

I Love To Hear Laughter

Over the last few weeks I have been reflecting on the nature of true love. I believe with all my heart that love comes as naturally to our soul as breathing does to our lungs. It is only when hurts creep in that our capacity for selfless intimacy is constrained. Our desire to love and be loved is the defining marker of our humanity. It is the wind in our sails and the fuel of our passions. It is the driver of our purpose and the sunshine in our day. It is our most captivating beauty and our mightiest power. Our highest self lives to serve love in a freedom that won’t be stopped.

My nanna has been an anchor in my soul from before I can remember. Her love for me was pure, and poured out of every part of herself. Her extension of deep, passionate love reached far and wide, and was experienced by everyone she came into contact with. One of my earliest memories was as a toddler, sitting on her kitchen sink, eating slices of pineapple as she cut them for me, not stopping till well after my tongue was stinging. I couldn’t get enough of my nanna. Her voice sang with a lilt, and her laughter babbled like a creek. Her eyes sparkled with mischief, and her gesture was lavish to all. She should have been worn down by life, but she was as sharp as a tack, and as full as a tall schooner of beer poured to the brim. She loved with the profound simplicity of a child. The fullness and honesty of this love revealed the vastness of a heart that seemed to have no end.

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True love has no constraints. It splashes over rocks and nourishes dry terrain.

In 2006 I experienced the searing pain of losing my nanna. She had been sick for years with emphysema and finally breathed her last on August 31. I had managed to visit her in Hervey Bay before that devastating day, and I will be forever grateful that we got to create final, lasting memories of who she was, and how she loved.

Losing her tore me apart. Until then I had not ever encountered such brutal, violent pain. I never realised that there was a type of hurt that felt like a slice of my very being was slashed out of my core. This loss brought a new understanding that to extend love is to guarantee hurt. Love lasts forever, but sometimes it is marked by a raw vulnerability that stings like too much pineapple.

I have come to embrace that this is the deal with love. I don’t speak lightly about ideas like passion, and abandon, and biting off more than you can chew. This road of high love is not an easy one. It is a risky, sometimes merciless course that makes you want to run away to hide. But this is how it goes. It’s gonna hurt, but to this day I continue to work on being ok with that, because that’s the only way to access that golden love opportunity. I launch myself into love with my eyes wide open.

I wrote a poem for my nanna on her passing, and shared it at her funeral. In the spirit of risky, vulnerable love, I would like to share it here with you too. I do this knowing that openness is a scary space, but it is the only way we can experience the exhilaration and fulfilment of a Freedom that is Unstoppable.

I Love To Hear Laughter

A few months ago

I asked my husband if he thought

that laughter was something we learned

or something that was already deep inside us,

so much a part of us as the essence of our very self

 

I have stopped to consider this question

Because it seems that to cry

Is as natural as our first breath

But laughter only comes with the passing of many happy times

 

While the source of laughter remains a mystery,

I have come to understand that

Innocent, pure laughter is found in love

And is only heard in the place

Where a perfect drop of bliss

Splashes into a deep well of trust.

Laughter erupts from our core

In an expression of joy

That can transform any landscape,

And fill the air with sounds from heaven.

 

It was always there, just like a baby’s cry,

But only when we learn that it is safe

Can we allow our laughter to be exposed. In laughter we are vulnerable and bare,

And our soul is as naked as we were

On the day we were born.

Control-Alt-Delete

Real life throws challenges our way every single day. I have noticed that some people struggle through even the smallest of challenges, while others can transform the toughest situation into life changing opportunity. The incidence of mental illness is increasing so rapidly in this country that it is expected to be our society’s leading health problem by 2030. It is becoming increasingly urgent for us to develop the skills we need to respond to adversity with power and optimism. We all know that life can be genuinely hard, but you are the only person in the entire world with the power to awaken your True Self. And the way you do this is by deliberately, strategically breaking into who you are to change what you find.  I am here to tell you to empower yourself to Unstoppable Freedom!  We need to unlock the words that we think and say to transform how we see the world. Because How you see determines What you see.

There are three simple steps that I know from experience will help you get started on this journey.  Your Unstoppable Freedom needs you to:

Control-Alt-Delete

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My life is built on the power of my words to promote growth through life’s toughest days

I live by this process every single day. It’s a one trick wonder that can be reused for the rest of your life. At first it will feel clunky because you will be liberating your True Self for the very first time, but as you practice, you are going to become an expert at putting yourself through this cycle. It will become your intuitive response to everything life could possibly throw at you, and it will become the passcode to the new life that you create along the way.

Let’s start with Control.

You are the boss of you. You’re the boss of your words. You’re the boss of your thoughts. You’re the boss of your actions. So then, it follows that you are the boss of your feelings. This is very, very important. If we are going to learn how to empower ourselves so that we can transform even the toughest challenges into life changing opportunity, we need to realise that we are the boss of our feelings, and that our feelings can be controlled by the words we say, first to ourselves, and then to other people.

Now let’s be honest. This Control idea doesn’t mean that we have control over the things that are happening around us. We all know that there are things that happen without our permission. God knows I would love to have been in control of some of the disasters that have punctuated my life story.

But your problem isn’t the problem: The deal-breaker here is your reaction. The reality is we don’t have control over some of the events in our life, but what we can control is our response to it. How we react to life’s challenges, or how we respond to life’s opportunities literally changes our course forever. Viktor E Frankl puts it perfectly:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

In every single circumstance there is an opportunity just waiting to be realised, and by controlling the way we see things – controlling our thoughts and our talk – we can start to turn situations around and see opportunity where there used to be disaster or crisis. Let’s stand up!  Let’s take control of ourself, our choices, our behaviour, and we do this by controlling the words that we are saying to ourselves.

With the Control part sorted, the next step is ALT.

We awaken our True Self when we realise the power we have to Control ourselves and our direction, but we enlighten ourselves only when we start to alter what we find inside. We need to be really honest with ourselves. How do I see myself? What does my perfect life look like in my imagination? These questions are so important that I suggest taking a minute now to reflect and write your answers down.

You need to be able to see what’s there inside you, and when you know what’s there, you have the power to change it. This is the key to combatting stress, fear, loneliness, anxiety, hopelessness. Your new words are going to remind you that you are powerful over yourself, and that you can implement choices that target your perfect life.

Now we have Control over our words, and we have altered what we say to ourselves, next comes Delete, because you will have some cleaning house to do. You need to start deleting some of your old thoughts because they don’t serve the person you are releasing from within, and they don’t allow you to pursue the life your soul longs for. Your old thoughts mask your True Self in surrender and despair, and they hide your perfect life in fear, and procrastination and doubt.

The only way that you are going to be able to Delete the old is if you have new words to replace them. We are humans, so we can’t format our hard drive like a computer.  Our memories and our subconscious learning will always be there … but we can replace, we can recreate, we can redefine ourselves. This is how humans change and grow. We control our words to alter our outlook, then we delete the old words we used to say so that we can enjoy being our True Self, and chase down our perfect life.

My Life Loves Me Back

As the seasons of my new life unfold I continue to obtain ever-increasing clarity on my identity and my purpose, so choosing the actions that fill my day is generally a process that happens purely as a logical extension of my inner knowing.  I have become very clear on the sort of person I am, including my strengths and weaknesses, my temperament, my skills, my values, my priorities, and my beliefs. With these insights, I strive to direct my decisions to line up with goals that fulfil my natural attributes. This well-developed sense of self has stemmed from my days as Alec’s wife.

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Alec and I, 2006 xx

Alec and I worked for years at perfecting the balancing act of our time-hungry careers.  I loved teaching with all my heart, but I was mindful of the greater purpose that it served in providing the financial stability we needed to grow our business.  For Alec, this business was the cause that he championed with zealous passion. For both of us, this business was the priority, because it was the only structure in our lives that had the capacity to function as a springboard able to launch us into the ambitious desires that we shared for social and community work. We both wanted to stretch out into the world with influence, using our business to fund projects of community empowerment in education, business, and family.  He worked at our vacuum business all the time, while I worked my teaching by day and our business by night. The juggling act was crazy a lot of the time. Somehow we squeezed in everything we wanted with our work, kids, health and fitness, and social connections at church, and with other friends too. I can’t emphasise enough the challenge that Alec and I always had with maintaining balance and intimacy in our life, but our goals motivated us to stretch ourselves past our boundaries into new capacities.

The completion of my study saw me starting work in local primary schools, but even while I was at university Alec was progressively developing a restlessness for more autonomy than our Godfreys franchise could ever provide. Before I had finished my degree Alec and I were confronted with an ultimatum that would change our course permanently. In Alec’s entrepreneurial ambition he had decided that our supply of niche vacuum cleaner spare parts could be put to a use that had further reach than simply selling from our Wagga Wagga franchise.  Even in his pre-Kerry days of youth, Alec had loved computers. His lifestyle involved ongoing investments of time and money to keep up with the latest developments in technology. The internet opened exciting new opportunities for Alec, who became increasingly obsessed with combining the two loves of his life by selling his vacuum spare parts on eBay.

Alec’s eBay shop, Nelson Vacuums, was successful instantly. It was relatively easy to build, and with none of his competitors able to boast the same range of niche vacuum cleaner spare parts, he was able to quickly achieve a modest cash flow to reward his efforts.  Things were going along swimmingly … that is, until Godfreys got wind of Alec’s internet endeavours. They were quick to inform Alec that his online activities took his business outside of the geographical boundaries of our franchise region, and in this way violated our business contract. With this item being the only one on the agenda, we were summoned to Sydney and asked to make a choice then and there. We had discussed the very real possibility that this might happen, and with a deep breath we both jumped out of the security of our franchise boat, into the unknown ocean of our own independent business.

Alec and I always shared the same belief system about work. Over every season of our life we made choices that opened autonomy and empowerment, attracting the sort of fulfilment and success that can only come from operating in our strengths and our passions. Nowadays, my personal commitment to significant work is alive and well, and continues to motivate me towards goals that energises me. As terrifying as it is to take leaps of faith into possibilities that exist only in your imagination at first, the alternative is nightmarish to me. I never want to live a day that compromises my innate purpose or my God-given strengths. I am at my most free when I choose to live a life that I love. As the only candidate for the job, I rise to the challenge of building a life that loves me back.