Mums In Leadership Interview

I had the pleasure of interviewing my good friend Joanna Adeyina as part of the ongoing conversation around Why Mums Make Great Leaders

Watch time: 25 mins 

Grab a cup of tea (I’m British!) and a biscuit and have a watch. Find out what Joanna thinks about being a mum and a leader, how it’s made her better, the challenges it brings and her favourite parenting tips – because we all love a good life hack!

Joanna is a wife, mum, actress, presenter, author and children’s entertainer. She leads in three main spheres of life, in the home with her husband, in her career and at church. You can check out her website here: www.itsjoanna.co.uk

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic and you can catch up on previous posts and the introduction to the series here: Why Mums Make Great Leaders

 

Why Mums Make Great Leaders Part IIII

you are lovely

For those new to this theme, let me explain. Last year I started a conversation entitled, ‘Why Mums Make Great Leaders’ Initially, this was mostly due to me becoming a first-time mum and navigating the new territory and title of Mother against the backdrop of leadership. The aim of the conversation is to encourage Mothers that they can make great leaders despite a historical context of being overlooked for leadership, by themselves or others due to their motherhood season. Sadly women and mothers still face discrimination within the arena of leadership today. Despite the fact that in Western culture we have made good progress and are moving forward, there is still work to be done. I am however grateful to live in a country and era in which we are free to address the topic. Women in different cultures and countries to my own still aren’t afforded the basic human right of freedom of speech and so we must help to fight for them.

With that said, this isn’t a political or rallying post, but rather one to inspire and encourage and bring hope to another. Whilst it’s addressed primarily to mothers, the message of positive influence transcends title and is the privilege and responsibility of all.

Good leaders influence well, they inspire greatness in others, they believe in a better future and they pioneer into the unknown. Today as I was scrolling through my Instagram stories, I came across an incredible example of great leadership by a mother posted by a friend who is herself a great leader and mother to five children! She posted a tale about Thomas Edison and his mother that reads as follows:

One day, as a small child, Thomas Edison came home from school and gave a paper to his mother. He said to her, “Mum, my teacher gave this paper to me and told me that only you are to read it. What does it say?” Her eyes welled with tears as she read the letter out loud to her child, “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have good enough teachers to train him. Please teach him yourself.”

His mother did just that until she fell ill and passed away.

Many years after Edison’s mother died, he became one of the greatest inventors of the century.

One day he was going through some of her things and found the folded letter that his old teacher had written to his Mother. He opened it… The message written on the letter read, “Your son is mentally deficient. We cannot let him attend our school anymore. He is expelled.” Edison became emotional reading it and later wrote in his diary, “Thomas A. Edison was a mentally deficient child whose mother turned him into the genius of the century”

Source unknown

Thomas Edison was a famous American inventor, probably best known for creating the first electric light bulb. If you google the above story, there is speculation around whether it is based on fact or more allegorical in style. Some believe that there was actually a conversation between the teacher and mother rather than a note, but whatever the truth of this particular report, the message is still important, words have power and mums have influence.  

Fact or fiction, reading about the courage and tenacity of Thomas’s mother reminded me once again of the power of leadership within mums. What a responsibility we have as parents to lead and influence our children well. Mrs Edison was unwilling to settle for a negative diagnosis of her son’s abilities. Believing in his potential and motivated by a mother’s love, she decided to set about creating an environment in which she could forge a better future for Thomas than that prescribed by his teacher. I doubt she could have foreseen the scale of impact that her decision and effort would have. What a great example for us all, whatever title we hold, mother, father, grandparent, friend, neighbour, work colleague or stranger, we each have the power to encourage or discourage. It’s a sobering thought to think that because of the nurture, influence and leadership of his mother in his early years and the guiding of his potential, his and her legacy continue to this day. If you’re reading this with the help of an electrical light, you are sitting partly under the fruit of Mrs Edison’s labours. A leader in her own right. 

I am blessed with two lovely sisters-in-law, one is my brother’s wife and the other Rich’s sister. Both are people who you could comfortably introduce to anyone because not only are they lovely, both can also hold a conversation with pretty much anyone. Interestingly, however, Rhiannon, Rich’s sister, as a child of about 18 months old wasn’t correctly finishing the end of her words. The Health Visitor wanted to refer her to a speech therapist, believing there to be further issues with her communication. Her mother Amanda, refused. Amanda knew that this developmental phase wasn’t due to a lack of intelligence or understanding on Rhiannon’s part as she was using language appropriately. Amanda believed that Rhiannon would eventually get there in her own time as long as her and Andrew (her Dad) kept regularly speaking to her. Today Rhiannon is a Cambridge medical graduate who went on to become a GP and is now a pastor who teaches and preaches as part of her job. Although Amanda didn’t know what Rhiannon would become, she believed in her future and influenced her present to help ensure her greatest potential could be fulfilled. 

Whatever season we may find ourselves in and whatever influence we may have or however we view that influence, big or small, whether it’s over one person, ten or multitudes, we have the ability to make a difference for good. We have an opportunity to create change and to speak hope and life into desperate situations. Never doubt the importance of who you are to someone and the power that your words hold. This post sits within the category of, ‘Why Mums Make Great Leaders’ but it’s really a message to anyone who is willing to love another and be brave enough to lead, even against the odds and at the risk of being misunderstood.

What legacy will we leave?

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

Proverbs 18 v 21 (NIV)

To read more of this conversation click here 🙂

Why Are We Waiting?

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Deciding when to have children was probably a bigger decision for me than it was for Rich, although it affected us both hugely. I was acutely aware of how much my life would have to change in order for us to become parents. It was something we always planned on doing but the timing was up for negotiation. There are many reasons as to why we waited for as long as we did to start trying, but they really all boil down to the fact that we thought we had life to live before we took the plunge. Reasons that felt justified and I’m sure some were. I had trained as a dancer and didn’t feel I could pursue that to the best of my ability physically with a child. We wanted to become more financially stable so that we could support our child. Good reasons and sensible decisions to many.

On having Sienna, I admit that some of the concerns I had about having children most definitely came to pass, lots of sacrifices, limited availability for other pursuits, tiredness, but all of them pale into insignificance in comparison with the pleasure of being her mother. It’s not an easy journey, I’d be lying if I said I’d loved every second of it, there have been really tough moments, but it is by far one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever done. Despite the fact that I don’t think it’s my only life calling, it’s already given me more fulfilment than other things I’d chased. 

We were so concerned about losing out on life, or at least I was, that at times we failed to recognise all that we’d gain. There’s definitely a cost to being a parent and for me personally in many ways, it’s cost everything. I’ve had to work hard to regain physical strength after a less than ideal birth, I’ve had my faith and patience stretched to the max, I’ve let go of many things and it has pretty much turned my world upside down. There is good news though! I do love Sienna inexplicably, and challenging as it may be, I can’t imagine a better life without her.

Being able to experience the joy of parenting requires dealing with a lot of unpleasant stuff. Just meeting your child requires labour, aptly named as it’s no walk in the park. Before you become a parent you can only imagine what it’s like. I believe God took us on a journey of excitement and expectation to prepare our hearts for the gorgeous munchkin that we now call ours, yet still, we couldn’t have imagined the joy we would feel, we only hoped for it. We had to make the choice to surrender what we had known and go through the process of discovery to find it.

In an encounter with His disciples, Jesus outlines a tough decision that they and all followers of Christ must face if we are to fully embrace salvation. It’s not a pretty scripture, it’s one of those grin-and-bear-it reads until you turn to another more pleasant and palatable text about all of the inheritance and good things we attain as children of God. Yet on the other side of the decision, although it requires loss, is inexpressible joy and eternal abundant life.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life, will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

Matthew 16 v 26

It sounds like a pretty big deal, and well, it is, following Christ requires letting go of a lot, your whole life in fact, but I want to encourage you, the gain is far more than we could ask or imagine (reference to Ephesians 3 v 30). Since having Sienna, yes I’ve laid down and let go of some things but it’s afforded me so much more than just the overwhelming love of a mother. It’s allowed me to pause and reassess certain aspects of life as well as gain a greater perspective. It’s forced my hand in discipline because I want to be the best mum to her and provide the best as much as I’m able. It’s heightened my senses to His purpose and given me a greater appreciation of others and a deeper level of empathy. Time and how I spend it has become ever more precious and I’ve found the ability to dream again in more ways than one. I’ve been surprised at new passions and ideas that God has given me. I’ve pressed into God further and upped my prayer game. On the other side of the decision to lay down my life for another; all my hopes and unfulfilled dreams, doubts and struggles, the need for control, I’ve found so much more than I lost.

If only we could have a taste of the abundance before we make the leap of faith right? Maybe then we wouldn’t deliberate or procrastinate for so long before taking the plunge. But faith requires us to hope and have confidence in things not yet seen. One thing I would always encourage those under my leadership with is that you can’t trust someone you don’t know, so I the first step to letting go, is getting to know! Get to know God, Psalm 34 v 8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him” This verse is an invitation to experience the Lord’s goodness, but it requires us to first take a bite, to trust, to seek, to act. Jesus moved heaven and earth to display His love for us, He’s laid it all out for all to see, but the issue with merely seeing and not tasting/doing is that we can look away. Tasting is an experience, it leaves a flavour. Give God a go and see what flavour you’re left with.

So I want to ask you what are you waiting for? What’s holding you back from laying down everything, that issue, the pride, the hurt, your past? Like the scripture in Matthew says, what do we gain by holding onto things? Let us not sacrifice our wholeness on the altars of being right, unforgiveness or temporary pleasure. Hope and promise await in a future where we let go and let God. I had to lay down the life I had come to know, and even though it wasn’t perfect there was comfort in its predictability. One can only hope that the investment into Sienna pays off, but investing all that you have and everything you are, past, present, future, dreams and hurts into Christ has the best and most secure payoff, not only in eternity but also in the present. So let’s let go and let God.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”

Psalm 37 v 4

 

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Mirror, Signal, Meltdown

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Recently we purchased a new car, I know what you’re thinking – what an exciting life we lead! It’s not ‘new new’ but new for us and still in great condition and get this – amazingly, (this feels like a novelty) –  everything works! We were blessed with our previous one and it’s been a huge help since having Sienna to have the extra space it offered for the mountain of things that come along with travelling with a child. However, it was a miracle that it passed its last MOT as there was a lot of onerous things wrong with it. For example, the driver’s seat fixed in only one position, so both Rich and I had to manoeuvre a one-size-doesn’t-quite-fit-all driving posture. If the driver door wasn’t at least ajar when unlocked, the car automatically re-locked itself causing the alarm to trigger – tricky when trying to get yourself, bags, pram and kid out of the car. It wasn’t far off a crystal maze challenge! There were also various important buttons missing, no air-con (imagine that in this heat wave UK peeps) and other minor but annoying issues that all made vehicle operation pretty tedious at times.

The new, but not ‘new new’ car has all sorts of fancy bells and whistles and fandangled ways to turn on the car and operate a variety of gizmos and gadgets. All wonderful and super efficient – as long as you know what you’re doing. You can probably tell by my description of car parts that I’m not completely au fait with motors. I’m not ashamed to admit that I took a test drive with the hubby to ensure I knew what I was doing. The first attempt was only mildly successful, as it resulted in me stalling in the middle of the road whilst passers-by asked if we needed a push! Cue the hubby wanting the ground to swallow us up whilst I break into a mild sweat and hit all sorts of buttons in an attempt to restart the car. Have you ever done the same thing multiple times and expected a different outcome and find yourself shocked every time that you achieve the same result? That was me! (That can be a different blog for another day!) We had to quickly jump out and switch positions amidst the ever-growing queue of traffic as I tried to politely smile and wave with a confused look expressing, “sorry, not sure what’s wrong, it’s a mystery, we’ll be gone before you know it,” – Eek! You’ll be glad to know, the streets of South East London are now safe to drive again and I am of course a pro at driving our lovely new but not ‘new new’ family car.

Despite the fact that I had been desperate for a new car, in that moment of discomfort and ever-so-slight mild beetroot face embarrassment, I longed for my old broken and dysfunctional car, because at least I knew what I was doing and that brought me some comfort. Even though the seat didn’t quite fit my stature and preference, I had adjusted accordingly to its awkwardness and it became my ‘norm’. Even though everything took twice as long to accomplish, at least I was prepared for its malfunctioning parts. I’d become accustomed to its irritating nuances.

Isn’t that a bit like life sometimes? We long for ways to make our journey smoother and more efficient but when opportunities arise, if we don’t ‘click’ with them straight away, our lack of experience and insecurities can make us want to run back to our old broken and dilapidated ways. Even though our old ways are broken and dysfunctional, like my old car, at least we knew how to function in them, how to get by and make things work. We became accustomed to operating slightly off-kilter.

When pushed out of our comfort zone, it takes a while to adjust. It can offer a better experience of life in the long run if we embrace the stretch. But can we take the risk and embarrassment of our vulnerabilities being exposed as we stall in the middle of the road in full view of nosey onlookers whilst trying to find our feet?  

One thing I’ve realised about the stretching seasons of life is that they are rarely planned or welcomed. We don’t wake up one day and think, “today is a good day to feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and overwhelmed”. Rather, they seem extremely ill-timed and we can feel completely unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with the changes required. So, here are some quick things I’ve learnt about the seasons of stretch from my new but not ‘new new’ car test drive experience:

  • I’m Perfectly Equipped – I’ve actually been driving for a decade and ask Rich on a good day and he’ll agree that I’m a great driver! I know the laws of the road (mostly – ha! Who knows all of them seriously?) and I can do all of the necessary procedures to get safely from ‘a to b’. In this instance and often with stretching and new ventures, I just needed a bit of practice to adjust to the new settings. We actually know more than we think and have more in us than we realise. Take salvation, the initial decision and the daily walking it out, it offers many new revelations which present choices for us all on how to apply them. Sometimes we soar and sometimes we struggle, but we need not worry because the Bible reminds us that, “God has placed eternity in the hearts of men” (Ecclesiastes 3 v 11) In other words, we are hard-wired towards our destiny right from our conception. It’s His plan and His will that we find Him and learn to navigate this life with Him. He wants us to stretch and grow and even prosper. So take heart that you have everything you need to face what’s ahead, you just need to practice and grow into it.

 

  • Try Again Straight Away – For a moment I felt deflated and a tad anxious to try again, but as soon as we had managed to pull over, we swapped seats and after a little recap of all the important buttons, off I went again. I was probably a little tentative and over-cautious, but nevertheless, it was easier. It’s so important not to let a failure or failures stop us from going again because our success could be on the other side of one more try.

 

  • Don’t Stretch Alone – Fortunately for me, I had Rich at that moment to help bring some guidance, clarity, encouragement and let’s be honest, a kick up the bum. We weren’t made to do life alone, we were made to live, love, laugh, cry, try and fail alongside others. Life is better when shared, warts and all. Who can we lean on to take the wheel when we need them to and who will encourage us back into the driver’s seat when it’s time? Or who can we do that for?

 

Well, there you have it, I hope my mini, ‘new but not new new’ car drama has brought you some encouragement. Whatever you’re facing, be it big or small, don’t be tempted to jump back into old and broken ways that weren’t really working for you anyway. Have faith that it’s within you, take a breath, try again and don’t do it alone. Once you get the hang of it, the ride will be much smoother in the long run.

Right, I’m off to swat up on some road theory – jokes!

 

Serious Fomo

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Becoming a mum is one of the greatest and most challenging things I’ve ever done. When you become a parent for the first time you look on in awe at other mums and dads who have been doing it well for a while with a new sense of admiration. They are secret superheroes that wear their underpants on the right side of their trousers – depending on how much sleep they’ve had.

Daily as a parent we’re faced with many choices, sometimes small, sometimes big, but all feel a lot more significant than they used to because someone else is depending on us to try and make the right decisions! Being a mother has taken me on one of the greatest learning curves of my life. There’s the obvious learning that you were slightly (not at all) prepared for in how to take care of a child, growing as a parent and navigating your relationship now it has another in the mix, and then there are the lessons that you didn’t expect or want to be faced with. Magnified by sleep deprivation and new responsibility, Michael Jackson’s song, “Man In The mirror” suddenly hits you between the eyes and you’re forced to face the good the bad and the ugly truth about yourself. Wanting to give your best to your child and spouse, the wider family and friends, church, ministry and work is no easy task. Sacrifice takes on a whole new meaning and convictions are often tested.

One of the things I’ve had to face within myself is some serious FOMO (fear of missing out). I’ve had to take a back seat in physically being present at certain things at Church, work and with friends in order to look after Sienna and this hasn’t been something that has always come easily to me. I know that being the best mum and wife in this season is part of my ministry. Raising the next generation is a huge responsibility and honour, but I put my hands up and admit it’s been difficult at times looking on from a distance at things I would have previously been involved in or been at. I truly believe in the decisions we’ve made as a family and the things I’ve ‘missed out’ on attending have afforded me the pleasure of being present with Sienna and allowed us to build some structure into her life. Whilst I don’t doubt our choices, it doesn’t mean it’s always been easy to walk out the journey.

FOMO is something I think we all deal with in all sorts of different areas of life. It’s probably been brought to the foreground of our attention by social media which gives us 24/7 access to the best highlights of our day. What I’ve realised is that there are no winners in comparison. We will always look at what we don’t have or haven’t done rather than celebrate what we do and what we have done. Comparison diminishes the value of either yourself or your circumstances or the person and theirs that you’re comparing yourself against.

The beauty of humanity is that there are many similarities amongst us that contribute to our sense of connectedness and need for one another, but yet we are all still unique. There can often be many routes to the same destination and rather than compare the journey it’s important to embrace our own route. The important thing is to keep our eyes on our goals as we each try and build the paths we have chosen.

Proverbs 29 v 18 states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” Where there is no focus, no intent, no plan or preparation, no long-term perspective, it’s easy to look around at others and think we should be doing exactly what they are in order to be our best selves. If we don’t have a clear sense of purpose within ourselves or a confidence in the decisions that we’ve made we can be prone to some serious FOMO.

So, practically how do we ensure that we are happy with the lives we have chosen and the things we have chosen to pursue? Well, I’m still figuring it out but here are a few things I do to help combat FOMO:

  • Remain Thankful – When we allow FOMO we fail to appreciate where we now, who we are with and where we have come from. There’s so much to learn and enjoy in the moment if we choose to see it.
  • Keep Focus –  Play the long game. Often the cause of our frustration is partly due to our Western culture in which we’ve become accustomed to having and doing everything that we want instantly. We have access to most things at just the click of a button. Keeping a long-term perspective means the short term sacrifices don’t seem so bad. It’s important to firm your convictions and keep them in view.
  • Encourage Others – If I’m not on the field I can still be a cheerleader and it’s just as important. I’m still a part of the things I find important even if my availability to be present is limited for a season. Encouragement shifts the focus from ourselves and builds others up. When we’re forced on the sidelines we still have a part to play. Teamwork means that it doesn’t matter who scores as long as we get the goal!
  • Stay Planted and Connected – When we look on from a distance vision becomes blurred. It’s easy to assume things when we can’t see the detail and filling in the blanks incorrectly can cause unnecessary grief.
  • Plan – Planning allows us to be intentional about the things that are important to us and provides a path to follow. It helps to keep the bigger picture in view and see clear goals for achieving it. Having a plan allows us to be somewhat in control of our lives and means that we don’t have to worry about what is happening elsewhere because the reasons for our decisions have been well thought through.
  • Find My True North – For me this is God. In Him, I find my identity, my purpose and my fulfilment so I do whatever it takes to keep that intact. He is my source, my strength, my peace and my provision and really He guides me and leads me in all of the above.

What are some of the things that you do to guard against FOMO?

The Yield Point

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The Yield Point:

Where Growth Becomes Permanent

This past week has been particularly full for me, more than usual and my capacity has been stretched and tested. When thinking about it, I was reminded of an analogy for growth that my husband once shared which seemed accurate and encouraging. Rather than regurgitate his words, I asked him to pen his thoughts so that I could share them with you.

Enjoy……………..

I just recently went back to Cambridge with my family. It holds a lot of fond memories for me. It was where I studied at uni, where I met my wife, where I got my first job, where I got my first house. Cambridge will always be an important and formative place for me. I caught myself driving through the small winding streets and reminiscing about how things used to be. Life seemed so simple back then. Of course, at the time it didn’t feel simple at all. When I look back at what I used to stress about it’s actually quite amusing. It seemed huge at the time, but with the passing of time and a bit more ‘life experience’, it all seems so trivial now. It struck me that personal capacity develops through the years without us really noticing it. This made me wonder, “How does our capacity grow?”

Did you know that metals are elastic? It’s true. Metals behave similarly to elastic bands when you apply tension to them. Just like an elastic band, metals will stretch when you pull them. If you stop pulling them they will return to their original length. Because of this property, metals are said to behave elastically under certain conditions. If you apply more force, the metal will stretch further. Apply a bit more still and it stretches a bit further still. Each time the force is removed, the metal will return to its original shape. There is a point, however, that once crossed, will change the metal permanently. It’s called the yield point. Before the yield point, the metal has enough capacity to take the force applied to it. When the force is removed it simply relaxes back into its normal position. But when the yield point is reached, it’s a different story. The metal has been subjected to so much force that all of its inbuilt capacity to carry the force has been overwhelmed. When removing the force now, the metal does not return to its original length, it has been permanently stretched and therefore is permanently enlarged.

I think this illustration gives an unique insight into how growth can work in us. For most of our lives we operate within our ‘elastic zone.’ Every now and then a little more is asked of us than usual. That might be in the form of a work deadline, a house move, or revising for an exam. An external pressure that applies some extra “force”. When these challenges come our way we feel stretched and a little overwhelmed, but we actually have enough capacity within ourselves to deal with the stretch on a temporary basis. Remove the external pressure and we return to normal. Nothing has really changed, although we’re pretty happy we don’t have to deal with whatever it was anymore. For most of life’s ups and downs, this is perfectly adequate.

There are, however, certain situations where we reach the end of ourselves when all our capacity is spent and the external force isn’t removed but continues to pull. Perhaps things start with just a work deadline which then escalates into a work deadline and a house move, plus an exam and maybe an illness, add the kids playing up and … well, you get the idea. Before we know it one thing has snowballed into another and it feels like an avalanche is heading our way. It can seem never-ending and like we’re going to be engulfed any second. The truth is though, we’ve hit our yield point. It’s painful, and it feels like we’re going to break, we’re being permanently stretched. It’s in these times that we find ourselves experiencing permanent growth. If we place these experiences into the hands of God, it can be in a positive way. When all the external pressures are removed, we don’t return to our original state, we return to a new state, hopefully, a bigger state. We’ve been permanently enlarged.

There have been so many times in my life that I’ve felt completely out of control and at breaking point, but if truth be told, I’d just hit my yield point. As human beings, we are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Unfortunately, it’s only in times of pressure that we see how resilient we really are. I have changed the way I view challenges and setbacks. I’ve reframed them as ‘Moments Of Permanent Growth.’ Easier said than done I know, but it does change your outlook and perspective in a positive way. Tough times come to everyone, it’s an unfortunate fact. Live long enough and you will have a period that just seems to really suck. Understanding that these moments can be of benefit to us in the long term, doesn’t necessarily make them easier to navigate, but it can give them a sense of purpose in the midst of the stretch. They aren’t pleasant but they can be useful.

Looking back on the tough times I’ve had to walk through, I wouldn’t want to walk through them again, but I do recognise that I’m a bigger person because of them. I guess that’s the point really. Ultimately it’s in our lack and in our need that our awareness of God is heightened. In our weakness we can see His strength. When we get through the other side and look back, we realise that God is faithful and so the next time a challenge comes we have a personal revelation and experience of His faithfulness in our life. “If God got me through that, He can get me through this.” That allows us to face an uncertain future with an assurance that we do have the capacity to withstand adverse force, but not in our strength, in His. So if you feel like you’re at breaking point, take heart! Where we end, He begins.

2 Corinthians 12 v 9

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”