The Tooth About Boundaries…

Sat in the dentist waiting room I had no idea the events that were about to unfold and the involuntary response my body would have.

I’ve never had a great relationship with my dentist – I’ve accidentally unregistered myself twice by avoiding the dentist entirely. The first time I went to the dentist as an adult for a check-up I was absolutely mortified that I needed my first filling. The shame was palpable as the dentist looked into my mouth and made no secret of the state of my tooth. From then on, I avoided the dentist at all costs, not wanting to re-live the judgment again. Ironically, by avoiding the dentist entirely I signed myself up for more dental problems! But none as bad as this last visit.

I chipped my tooth the other day. That was just the beginning.

I reluctantly went to the dentist’s surgery on my way to work to book an appointment – they’d unregistered me again.

‘Sorry, your account has lapsed, It’s been three years!’ The familiar pang of judgment hit as I muttered ‘Yea, lockdown sorry.’ A clickety-clack of keys and the secretary announced she couldn’t give me an appointment but would ring later to see if one became available.

Shortly after nine, miraculously, a private clinic appointment opened – with a private appointment price that I had to pay over the phone before my appointment was confirmed. I was less than five minutes in the chair. The dentist declared it a ‘small chip,’ that was ‘easily fixed,’ for the princely sum of … yet another non-NHS available, private appointment.

Please don’t read me wrong, I’ve nothing against private appointments but…

Here I am in the same chair I’ve sat in as a kid and not paid, and the chair I’ve sat in as an adult and paid NHS prices, but suddenly the same service was private? How does that work? I was also given the choice of a silver fix or a white one, something they don’t offer on the NHS anyway – apparently the don’t get given a choice.

So, off I trotted with a temporary filling and an appointment for the following day. And here we meet again – sitting in the waiting room on a black folding chair, waiting for my appointment.

Red flags should have been flying high when the dentist asked me IF I wanted an anaesthetic, yes – IF.

I absolutely do want an anaesthetic por favor! You think I’m silly enough to NOT have one!? She brings out a comedy-sized needle, injects me and sends me off to the waiting room to numb up. With my track record – I’ve had a tooth out before – I’m kind of familiar with what the numbing feels like and this time, while I was going numb, it didn’t feel as numb as it had previously.

I told the dentist this. She proceeded to drill anyway. I yelped as I very much FELT her drilling into my face! Deciding that I hadn’t waited long enough, she sent me back into the waiting room, that’s when the shakes started. I took some deep breaths putting it down to shock. Then I got called in for the second time.

The dentist poked at my gums to see if the injection had worked, ‘Can you feel that?’ she asked. ‘Yes I can,’ I clearly responded, but she picked up the drill anyway!

I’ve never been afraid of the dentist – but sat in the waiting room for a THIRD time with a SECOND injection in my mouth because she hadn’t believed me I’m starting to cry. I do not cry in public.

She then called me back in – and tried again.

Side note: When you’re panicking and tense, not being listened to as you tell the nurse that in fact your face isn’t numb, saying ‘I barely touched your tooth,’ isn’t much comfort when you’re clearly in pain!

Among the few other comforting phrases were things like:

  • ‘You’re not going to want to visit me ever again are you!’
  • ‘Are you normally this sensitive?’
  • ‘We can take a break if you want, just let me know,’ I would if you weren’t in my mouth and I could speak.
  • ‘You’re going to feel very numb this evening!’
  • ‘Don’t worry, we’re here until 5 so we’ve got another hour to get it done.’

When I was sent back to the waiting room with a third injection in my mouth, I was visibly shaking and couldn’t care less who saw me crying.

On my fourth visit to that little room – I wasn’t particularly listened to and didn’t feel at all believed – As I yelped in pain again, she stopped, I was crying, and angry and just said, ‘Just get this over with.’

Trying to control my breathing, shaking and gasping she eventually switched drills, apparently that was a better option?! And finished the drilling as fast as she could. I’ve never shaken so involuntarily before and It was obvious it was happening – but ignored.

When she finished up her condescending: ‘Oh well done, you made it, it’s over,’ was of no comfort whatsoever!

I could not get out of that chair fast enough, she asked if I always got this nervous at dentist appointments. I said no! She said a light ‘Oh well, I’m sorry it happened like this today.’ I’m in blind tears at this point – not wanting to hear the aftercare – just needing to retreat to my car and burst into tears.

And now I’m home with a fat lip and the sneaking suspicion I’m going to be in pain when the anaesthetic wears off. But one thing for sure, take my name off the list, unregister me and delete my number, I’m not going to that dentist again!

And for this marvellous experience, I paid the princely sum of £225!

What’s the point in writing all this? Is it just so I can have a gigantic moan? Partly. But it also brought to mind that there’s so much to read from people that isn’t words, and we’re seemingly losing the ability to listen.

In between each session in the chair I did not want to go back in at all, but I was stuck – the drilling had already started and my tooth wasn’t fixed so I could hardly leave. My body was shaking, I was visibly crying, and nobody said a word.

I’m thankful that I’d messaged my friend Anita as soon as I sat down to tell her where I was, and as the drama unfolded she lived it with me over messenger and sent me bible verses. ‘Psalm 91! You know that one, start reciting it in your head,’ among others.

It reminded me that pain and vulnerability are best travelled through together, and sometimes, the cause of the pain – needs to be cut off. I so wanted this to be a positive post about pushing through the pain and going back in again but I think sometimes, not always, we can decided not to go back to the ones that cause us pain – in this case that’s obvious! But in many cases in life, it isn’t.

How many times do we strive for the acceptance of people that cause us pain because we think it’s the right thing to do? Then in our going back and becoming continually hurt something is planted in us that damages us – sometimes irrevocably.

I’ve been reminded a lot about boundary setting recently, and the ability that we have to say no. It’s actually quite empowering, and also involves wisdom in knowing what to say yes to and what to say no to.

I guess my dentist appointment isn’t a very good example of boundary setting – the fix was an unnecessary amount of pain for a necessary fix. But may times we keep ourselves in situations and relationships that cause us unnecessary pain, for unnecessary reasons!

What or who are we holding onto that is causing us unnecessary pain that’s becoming and unnecessary fixture in our lives?

Pray about the situation and for the person involved and don’t be afraid to distance yourself if you need to.

What boundaries do you need to set?

Ask God to priorities the things he wants you to do.

Talk to a trusted friend who may be able to point out some boundaries you need to set.

Write a list of your day to day commitments to help you process.

Where have you voiced your feelings and not been heard?

Pray about whether you need to set a new boundary

Is there something you can do to communicate more clearly in future?

Can you talk address the situation where you haven’t been heard some other way – eg. send a message, invite someone for coffee, discuss it with a friend?

Pop some thoughts in the comments if you like and let’s share some wisdom (of the non-tooth variety!) together.

Forget the former things…

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

How many times do we pray for change? I know I do it a lot, the amazing thing about having a relationship with God is that you can talk to him about anything, ask anything of him – nothing is too big, small, possible or impossible for him. You are his child and he loves you. He wants good things for you, he designed you to be in relationship with him and with others. 

I think sometimes we forget that when we ask things of God, we also have to brace for change. It’s tempting to live in our comfortable little bubble of things not changing, with each day being as predictable as the next. We can fill our lives to bursting with all of the things we want to do, the ways we want to serve and the relationships we want to grow but end up having our hands so full of things that we have no room for God. 

As tempting as it is to live in the comfort of what we know and understand, when we make room for God, when we invite him into our lives and talk to him about the things we’d love to do – we have to expect change. 

Isaiah knew it! He says: ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell in the past.’ meaning we can learn from the past but we don’t get to ‘dwell’ there, we don’t get to hunker down, stockpile all our belongings and never move again. Unlike bears hibernation is not a part of our yearly cycle, as much as sometimes we wish it was. 

A lot of us perhaps wish that we could have pressed pause on our lives and gone into hibernation for all of 2020 – or at least until it was safe to hug and see our relatives again. 

At the beginning of this year as I put my new year’s goals and vision into God’s hands I had a real sense of expectancy. ‘This was going to be my year.’ And boy wasn’t it a year for us all?!

I am reminded at the end of the year that God knew at the beginning what this year would hold, and he planted us at this point in history for a purpose. So while this year has been wildly out of our comfort zone, and for some has been the toughest of their life – hold onto the fact that God is still with us. Isaiah uses the word ‘Immanuel’ when he prophesied the coming of Jesus, it’s a word for God that we only ever really use at Christmas time but I’d encourage you to remember it day to day. The word Immanuel means – God with us! And we need him just as much now heading into the new year as we ever have done!

Don’t be afraid of what’s to come, brace for change, see what new things God will do as a result of what we have travelled through together. He will provide for you, Isaiah says: ‘I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’

So however your year has looked, don’t give up on him, even when you can’t see it God still has the plan and is fighting and providing for your every need, even if you feel like right now you’re in the wilderness, streams of love and blessing are coming.

Thinking of you all with much love and praying blessing, favour and change in the new year for you, that you hold on to God in the highs and the lows and that you will recognise his voice as you follow his footsteps!

Claire x

Day 21

Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. To him be the glory!

Take a minute to think about that word – immeasurable. It reminds me of stargazing as a kid. Laying in a field with friends just looking up and becoming completely lost in it all, feeling so small in the world and wondering what was beyond all that sky. 

No wonder scientists will spend generations asking how galaxies are formed, delving into space to discover new planets and just generally being in awe. Because all this around us – it’s just a tiny piece of what our God is capable of creating. Ephesians says that the same power that created the universe, the power of our God, is at work in us! In you and me! 

That same power that he poured into this beautiful creation – He pours into you! Let’s give him glory today and everyday in everything we do

Ps. Remember, nothing that you take to him is too big for him to deal with, and the next time you see the stars take a minute to check out the light display! When you’re feeling the weight of the day bringing you down – look up! How amazing is our God! 

Day 20

1 Corinthians 13 – 1:3 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Without love, what’s the point? In short that’s what I think this verse says. Without love our lives don’t make sense, without love our life becomes bleak, noisy, and destructive.

Now hold up, as a girl who’s all about that single life in this particular season, I need to just define this love I’m talking about. 

1 Corinthians is massively used at weddings and we can fall into the trap of thinking that love is all about finding ‘the one’ when in fact it’s all about THE ONE – Jesus Christ our God.

Head on back to that verse and each time you read love replace it with Jesus. 

You see, whatever we do in life, if we do it without Jesus being the centre, without a heart that is in pursuit of the things of God – what are we doing them for?

So let’s speak into people’s lives with love, let’s serve with love and let’s love others the way Jesus loves us. 

Day 19

Psalm 91:4

He will cover you with his feathers,

 and under his wings you will find refuge;

 his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91 is such a beautiful prayer of protection, a letter of love and promise from the Father to his children. It’s a psalm that proclaims that we can have a boldness in God that whatever the world throws at us, God is with us, will protect us and go before us always. 

It’s amazing to think that our mighty God is gentle enough to love us, keep us safe and protect us – but he is and he does! 

PS As you head out into your world today remember who goes before you, remember who protects you and fights for you, be bold in your workplace and do everything for his glory. 

Day 18

Psalm 37:3-4

Trust in the Lord and do good;

   dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord,

   and he will give you the desires of your heart

What’s your heart’s desire? What is that dream that you’ve held onto since you were a kid? What were the things you resolved to do before you hit a landmark birthday? 

God wants to give you the desires of your heart. But do you know something? When we become a follower of Jesus our hearts desire changes, because when you let God in, you’re allowing him into your heart to save you, and nourish you, heart and soul so you can flourish. When you let God in, your motivation changes, instead of looking at what we can get out of life, we start looking at how can we serve God in life to the best of our ability, with his strength and guidance. 

PS. You may think the desire of your heart hasn’t ever changed, think again. When you trust God, do good and dwell in him he takes your hearts desires and transforms them into more than you could ever imagine for yourself… because suddenly the plans you have aren’t just yours anymore, they’re for his glory.

Day 17

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

   and lean not on your own understanding;

 in all your ways submit to him,

   and he will make your paths straight

How hard is it to trust? and how much harder is it when someone breaks our trust to have confidence in them again? Trusting in someone or something is to have complete reliance in them. In a world where many relationships are broken or where we’ve been hurt – completely relying on anyone can be hard. 

Every day we trust in all kinds of situations – we trust a bus to deliver us to our destination, a supermarket to have the food we want, a hospital to have a doctor, diagnosis and a cure. But God calls us to trust him above everything, above situation, above how we feel and above what we see in front of us.

When you’ve been hurt by the world, in whatever form, it can be hard to trust. It can be scary to trust, to open up and feel vulnerable, but God calls us to trust him above everything. Because he is all-powerful, all-knowing and loves you so much he will never let you down. He wants the very best for you. So trust him with your whole heart, with everything you have, even when the way ahead looks confusing, put your plans in his hands and he’ll work everything for good. 

Day 16

Matthew 17:20 “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

This verse comes directly from the mouth of Jesus and when we believe in his word as true and living, and relevant for today we can stand on this promise and see it come true for ourselves. Can’t we?

As humans we seem to be automatically programmed to try and make plans work for ourselves – It can be difficult to hand over not just the big decisions, but every decision to God. We worry that people may think that we’re crazy, we’re fearful that we actually are crazy! But if we’re willing not to get in the way of ourselves, not to make excuses and to place everything in God’s hands the outcome will be incredible.

PS. That impossible dream that you’ve been holding onto, that thing you’ve always wanted to do and never dared because it seemed too big? Take your mustard seed of faith and plant it in God’s hands, he’ll move the mountains, just have faith!

Day 15

Psalm 92:12-13 

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,

   they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;

 planted in the house of the Lord,

  they will flourish in the courts of our God.

For any plant to grow there are a few key things it needs. Good soil, to gather all those juicy nutrients, water to help with growth and sunlight to help the plant with photosynthesis (making food – thanks GCSE bio!). 

I love plants, but I’m not so good at keeping them alive, especially if they’re in a pot on a windowsill. While I have good intentions at the start,  keeping harold the houseplant alive nearly always ends in disaster I will eventually forget to water him and he’ll begin to wilt and die. My only success with a plant was in uni when I had this spider plant that miraculously refused to die despite my shocking lack of care. To truly flourish, plants need a balance of sunlight, water and good soil to grow up strong, healthy and ultimately produce a flower or fruit. 

You are just like a plant. You may not be green, have a love of eating soil or particularly enjoy standing in a pot all day but you require certain things to help you flourish. 

Your living water is Jesus! Keeping you alive, helping you to grow and covering you in amazing Grace! Soak up the goodness!

The sunlight is the light of his living word, guiding you through life, showing you the love of Jesus and how to share it with others!

And your soil, is the place you can be fed, get all those lovely nutrients, and the guidance and encouragement you need to keep on keeping on. The soil is the place you’re planted – the body of the church.

To flourish we need to get stuck into the word, talk to God and make sure we’re planted in a place of love and encouragement so we can grow healthily, get to know God and share his loving heart with others.

It’s then we can bear fruit.

Day 14

Mark 9:23  

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

The day before we were due to travel half-way around the world I get a panicked phone call from the hospital. Mum had hurt her back and was currently laid up on a stretcher unable to move. Literally hours before we were due to fly to Sao Paulo. 

While this would be disappointing for me I knew mum would be absolutely gutted. I’d been to Sao Paulo working with a church the previous year and as soon as I’d returned she wanted to sign up and go herself. She’d even literally counted down each of the 365 days until we’d be going. The situation seemed hopeless.

But Jesus says everything is possible for the one who believes. 

I got on the phone and called friends asking them to pray and began praying for her healing too. We’d been planning this trip for months, it was mum’s first and she had been so excited to go. In as shorter time as it took me to call round and pray I got another phone call saying she was on her way home and felt fine. How quickly our God can turn a situation on it’s head! 

When you know Jesus you can see that instances like this are more than just coincidence, luck or medical genius – they’re His love poured out for us!

P.s. He loves you. Trust him to take the impossible and make it possible.