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 🙂

Rest In The Desert

rest in the desert

Last week I found it particularly difficult to write my blog post. Sometimes it’s hard to write weekly. There are some things God does that are so deep and tender, it’s difficult to put words to them. God gently works on my heart and spirit, but often my brain takes a while to catch up and so trying to articulate this process can be difficult. The building reserves of God’s grace need to remain in my tank for while and first do a work in me before I attempt to encourage another.

Sometimes we can be so eager to rush, to process things quickly so that we can move on to the next thing, but for what purpose? To what avail? What good is it to go from one event to the next, one Sunday to the next, one book, one service, one thought, one moment without actually allowing it to change us? It’s all too easy to try and live up to Western ideals as we build into our lives with the illusion that just because we are constantly on the go we are automatically moving forwards. What would it cost us to stop for a second? Worse maybe, what would it cost us to not? Are we actually brave enough to stop in the Presence of God long enough to allow Him to truly change us? To face what has been flying under the radar for far too long. The emphasis is always on doing more, getting better and achieving success, but does continuous movement offer a sustainable and substantial foundation on which to build?

We need to give ourselves the permission to stop, to rest, to heal and to learn as we remember that the current culture we live in is transitory; here today and gone tomorrow. It is not the master of our lives and we can choose what to embrace and what to disregard. Life is precious and short which can often be misinterpreted to mean that we need to zoom through our checklists and accomplish everything by yesterday. I would rather accomplish one significant thing that has eternal consequences than many that don’t.

Building a legacy that remains beyond our lifespan requires time, preparation, careful and thoughtful precision. Many of the most beautiful old buildings that have withstood the ages of climate and social change have firm foundations that took time to construct. Years of labour went into their building and it required careful craftsmanship to put them together. Beautiful and worthwhile pursuits take time. We have promises of restoration and hope offered in a life connected to Jesus (Isaiah 61 and Luke 4) that are too important to miss out on. The good news is we don’t have to wait until heaven to start to engage with them. He Himself taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven” Matthew 6 v 10. What I’ve noticed about my own life is that unless I allow God to attend to my needs, I am less able to give to others. I’m not inferring the need to wait for perfection to serve or help or engage if that were the case we’d never do anything! Rather, there is more God has waiting to entrust us with, but He offers us restoration first. If my heart is full with the issues of life, there’s not much room for anything or anyone else.

What time in our day and week is actually carved out for spending time with God and not ‘doing’ for God? Yes, sometimes they can be one and the same thing, He is omnipresent, but I would hate to be journeying alongside God and missing the point of His comfort. I don’t want to travel through life but not ‘arrive’ anywhere because I’m too stubborn to learn and allow God to do a deep work within me. The Israelites, despite seeing the great red sea part before their very eyes after being miraculously rescued from captivity and experiencing God’s daily provision and faithfulness, still grumbled and questioned God’s care and power. Despite God providing them with resources every day of quail and manna, they still doubted His provision. God’s Presence was visibly before them and yet they failed to allow Him to truly be their God and continue to be their Saviour every day. To appease and please God and atone for their mistakes they offered sacrifices over and over and over again. As I read their plight and see God’s continual faithfulness to them I see mirrors of my own life. What sacrifices do I offer with well-meaning intentions thinking that it will please God? What desert have I wandered in for too long because I have failed to see the purpose of my rescue? In their haste to enter into their promised land, they were delayed in actually arriving there. Ironically, learning fast means stopping often. Had they rested in His goodness would they have arrived sooner? We don’t have the answer to that but we can learn from their story.

Stopping in His Presence means dealing with some stuff. It’s uncomfortable and inconvenient and it means being vulnerable and showing weakness. Something that no one really likes to do. Yet we must learn that God is the author and finisher of our faith, our redeemer our comforter, King, and friend. He’s waiting to help us through to His promise so that we help others too. After all, we can only lead people through where we’ve been or as far as we are willing to go. Jesus has once and for all atoned for all our sins, past, present and future (Hebrews 9 v 25 – 28) and so we no longer have to attempt to appease or please God. We simply have to accept His kindness and come to Him to receive His grace. As odd as it sounds maybe we should learn to rest in our desert and allow Him to be God and maybe we will find our deliverance sooner. He is the lifter of our heads. As we allow Him to do the miraculous in our lives, not only will it benefit us but it will be a testimony of His goodness for others to see. His power will always produce results quicker than my best striving.

Psalm 34 v 6 – 7 (TPT)

“Gaze upon him, join your life with his, and joy will come.

Your faces will glisten with glory.

You’ll never wear that shame-face again.

When I had nothing, desperate and defeated,

I cried out to the Lord and he heard me,

bringing his miracle-deliverance when I needed it most.

The angel of the Lord stooped down to listen as I prayed,

encircling me, empowering me, and showing me how to escape.

He will do this for everyone who fears God.”

 

Psalm 40 v 1 – 3 (NIV)

“I waited patiently for the Lord;

he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear the Lord

and put their trust in him.”

 

 

*Hi friends, if you like what you read, please feel free to comment, share and post and hit follow me on here and Instagram 🙂

Love Beyond Reason

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This past week I attended Hillsong Conference Europe as I have every year for the past seven. In one of the evening sessions Carl Lentz, Hillsong New York lead pastor, preached a powerful message about God’s love. It was so significant that I think many were deeply moved and changed, myself included. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you will have seen I’ve returned to the subject of love in the scriptures often. Clearly, God is stirring something within me. This stirring should be an obvious expectation for a Christian, to linger on and develop in love, and yet sadly it isn’t. Carl’s message was based on John 13 v 34 – 35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples”. Interestingly, this passage is one Rich and I have talked a lot about over this past year as we’ve processed life’s changing scenery. I was reminded once again by his preach that there is no reasonable excuse not to love. Even when it hurts, when it’s messy and when it’s undeserved. When I look at Jesus and how He lived, and all that He has done and continues to do for me, I have no foundation to stand on that allows me not to love. To remain in Him and on this journey with Him, I must remain in love (see previous post, Remain In Love). God is love. If I say yes to Him I say yes to love, there are no grey areas surrounding this subject.

What resonated most was how important the stakes are when considering love. People will see Jesus if only we love one another. We so often focus on our ‘calling’ or purpose, our work or the gifts and talents we have and how to develop them as we pray ‘me-centric’ prayers to satisfy our desires and yet we live in a world desperately crying out for love. God delights in us fulfilling all of our potential but not at the expense of love. Carl reminded us that love is easily defined – just look at Christ, it’s simply developed – follow Christ and it’s dangerous when demonstrated – Christ changed the world forever with His ultimate act of love.

So why do we make Christianity so complicated? At what junctures, in our well-meaning efforts, have we missed the mark and gone off track? I don’t know all the answers to those questions, but I do know the simple solution to realignment and the ultimate purpose of the Church – Love; to receive love, to have love and to give love.

To love is to show grace and mercy, to forgive without receiving acknowledgement or apology, to show kindness where others haven’t and to give second chances where most wouldn’t. Love gives with no hope of return. It goes further than one has asked and extends considerably beyond the limits of worth. There’s no way we can do any of this in our own strength nor should we try. When we misunderstand or misplace love it causes problems. Our own reserves are finite and easily wasted. True Love does not exhaust us until we are dry, empty and weary. It doesn’t cut deep and leave us broken, but it does penetrate the deepest recesses of our souls. I can’t love undeservedly and even deservedly of my own accord consistently and faithfully. I must place my love in Him and look beyond the reality of the circumstance towards Him.

His love is infinite and abundant, it never runs out, it encompasses all things if we allow it. Our hurts, disappointments, misplaced hopes and unfulfilled dreams all wash away in the ever-flowing stream of His love. Not only that but this plentiful and refreshing flow allows new things to be seeded and grow, joy to replace grief, life to replace death, peace to replace anger. His love knows no bounds and it waters even the darkest and most lifeless parts of our soul if we allow it.

There’s no situation I can face that Jesus does not understand. He was grossly misunderstood by his own people, falsely accused, rejected, beaten, abused and tortured. He acutely feels our pain. He asks us to forgive not to exonerate bad behaviour, but to set us free from the bondage of bitterness and hate. Love is the better way. He doesn’t ask us to pretend that things didn’t happen but rather He offers us healing. He doesn’t excuse poor behaviour, but rather teaches us to see the brokenness in others. He’s not asking us to try and love because people deserve it, He’s showing us how to receive His love so that we can move beyond our past.

True Love is unreasonable. Reason informs me that because of this they deserve that. Reason is a good thing and applied well can carry great wisdom. But love trumps reason.

Love melts away anger and offers comfort. It has the ability to bring us to our knees because we choose it not because we are forced and then it gently lifts us up and restores.  

Love doesn’t offer us behaviour modification as prescribed by self-help gurus, although that may be a fruit of its tender embrace. Rather it offers hope, belonging, faith and security. It first pours in and only when we are full to overflowing is it required to spill out into our lives. Really God isn’t asking us to do too much more than allow Him to first love us and see what happens. To quote an old hymn, “love changes everything”. I’ve written it before and no doubt I will again because I personally need reminding of it daily, “Love NEVER fails” (1 Corinthians 13 v 8).

There’s an old Aesop fable I remember hearing as a child about a dispute between the North Wind and the Sun. As they discussed which of the two was stronger, a traveller passed by wearing a cloak. They agreed that whoever would be able to strip the man of his cloak would have the greater strength. The North Wind went first and blew and tore angrily at the cloak but this only made the traveller hold onto it all the tighter. When the sun had its turn, the warmth of its rays offered much relief and as the heat gently grew stronger, of his own free will the traveller removed his coat. This old tale reminds me of the love of God, it’s strong and powerful like the heat offered by the sun but it doesn’t force itself upon us and demand we let down our guard. Rather it warms and shines and gently nudges us to let go of our burdens.

Give Love a chance, your life and others depend on it.

Stop, Look, Listen

stop look listen

We live in an age of information. Never before have we had such access to knowledge and never before have we had as much freedom to think and express our opinions as we do now in the Western world. This is a wonderful thing, it provides opportunity, education, learning and discussion. It allows us to learn from our past and dream for the future. We have tools and studies, media and guides, facts and figures. There are podcasts, blogs and vlogs, groups and churches, programmes and courses. As soon as we start to type something into a search engine, multiple possible outcomes to the end of our sentences are quickly and freely offered.

Yet, sometimes there is an aching within, a deep longing or questioning, a hunger that can only be fulfilled by stopping and waiting in His Presence. A place where all other voices fade away, a place of peace and stillness, a place to find the truth, a place where we are unable to give but only receive. A place where only His answer and opinion will do, His kindness can heal and His love will restore. It’s a sacred place, a holy space. It can’t be found in the busyness, in the hustle and bustle, in the toing and froing. It’s not in the devotion or the service or the worship or the conversation, although all of those places lead us to Him. It can be difficult to find when life is full, but it’s harder still to live without it.

It’s an undefinable space in one sense, as it’s more a state than a physical destination, for some it’s found in nature, for others a special chair or a long drive, wherever it is and whatever it looks like for each of us it must be sought. It’s a place uninhabited by everyone but Him and you. A place to be real to the core of your being, to weep, to laugh, to declare, to be silent. We can’t sustain our faith by grabbing at snippets of truth like they are snacks that keep us going throughout the day. Sometimes we must be still and feast.

Jesus had the greatest mission on earth, the highest responsibility and the highest call and yet He was still with the Father. It was this stillness and this connection that gave even Him strength, direction and peace.  

There aren’t words of encouragement that I could give that even scratch the surface of what can happen in this place. It can be found only by you if you want it if you seek it and if you desire it. It restores, it levels, it refines and it injects life. The best prayers are uttered here and the greatest honesty is found here.

Were you ever taught as a child to stop, look and listen before crossing the road? Imagine if we applied that to life in general. Roads need to be crossed and paths walked, we are required to move, but imagine if we engaged our spiritual senses before we stepped out, what disaster could we avoid? What worry might subside? What clarity might be bestowed? What healing could be found? I believe there are secrets and mysteries only revealed in the stillness, only available to those that will stop long enough to hear. 

How do we find this rest, this stillness, this peace, His Presence? I’ll be honest, I’m still learning, but here are some things I know must happen before I can even get close to experiencing this wonder.

Stop – Let’s put down our phones, turn off the TV, step out of the room, leave the laundry, stop browsing the internet, at least for a moment, although He deserves and we need more than that. So often we want to relax, to wind down, to escape, I get it – me too! Hello Netflix. There’s nothing wrong with those things but they don’t compare to the miracles found in His Presence. It requires us to stop and there’s just no excuse that’s a good enough reason not to stop and be in the Presence of God. I’m preaching to myself. You’re too busy not to do it.

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word, I put my hope.”

Psalm 130:5

Look – We need to focus our eyes. Really look, really seek and really see. Look and earnestly desire after God, with open or closed eyes for it is the heart and soul that need to observe His goodness.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

Matthew 7 v 7 

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…”

Jeremiah 29 v 13 – 14

Listen – Pour out your heart, empty your mind, speak, cry, shout, pray, write and then linger. Be still and linger some more, switch off everything external and listen for Him.  There are things only He can clarify and life only He can give. Be reassured, “It’s the nature of God to speak” (A.W. Tozer). 

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?””

1 Kings 19 v 11 – 13

Finally …

“Be still, and know that I am God;”

Psalm 46 v 10

 

How I Create My Blog Content

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Just a quick little post about how I create content for anyone out there wondering or needing some encouragement in getting started. So here are 5 ways in which I create content:

LIVE – Simply, I just live! I believe that every day I wake and have breath still in my body, I have a purpose. Most days can seem pretty mundane and monotonous if you look at them purely on face value but God can move, whisper and nudge through anything! Most of my thinking time is done when cleaning or doing an everyday task and I’m often inspired by simple things and my day to day comings and goings. 

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” James 4 v 8

KEEP MY EYES AND EARS OPEN – I try and follow, watch, read and notice things and people all around and allow myself to be inspired by most things. Something or someone may trigger a train of thought that leads to a completely different outcome from where it was conceived. My husband might call this one nosey, but I like to think I keep informed about things that are important to me. I also listen to my inner voice for recurring themes or phrases.  

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Albert Einstein

MAKE NOTES – Most of what I post starts as a phrase or thought. As soon as I have one I jot it down, usually on my phone for ease and speed as I’m often in the middle of something or about to change a poopy nappy. I have many notes on the go at any one time and I just leave them on my phone until I’m able to sit down and read through them.

PRAY – Often I pray a simple prayer before I delve into my notes to ask God what if anything to expand on. Often specific scriptures drop into my mind and I write them down, read them and mull over them.

WRITE – I open google docs, import my thought or phrase and start to type and see where it leads. Depending on the time of day and the type of day I’ve had, I could finish it in one sitting, other times I may start one and leave it overnight to settle in my head and heart and approach it with a fresh mind the next day.

It’s easy to feel limited in terms of resource, for me time is of the essence being a full-time mother, there’s no way I can write with Sienna around. Discipline and goal setting have been key to me prioritising space to get things done. Sometimes I start during her nap time and finish in the evening depending on the week and what else needs to be achieved and when. Because I’ve committed to doing it, I always make time. It’s funny how we find an opening to do something that we deem important.

I’m not an expert writer but I try and learn each time I post and I definitely have very limited IT skills. I use WordPress to host the blog which provides super easy template options for beginners like myself as well as more advanced ones for those in the know. For all images used on the blog and social media, I use Canva which again me is amazing for a novice like me in all things graphic design.

I’m a work in progress and so whilst difficult to accept I realise that all content isn’t going to be perfect. For me, it’s a collection of thoughts and encouragements based mostly on my faith and because of that, I expect the blog to grow as I do. Recognising this allows me to do my best now and know that that is excellent for this season. I also play to my strengths. As silly as it sounds, thoughts are my strength, photos, theology, graphic design are not my strength, I just try and stick to being and me and commit to being better. 

So that’s me! How do you create content or capture your thoughts? Do you journal or take photos or simply have conversations with others? How do you find inspiration in your everyday life? 

You can also read why I write a blog here 🙂

If you like what you read press follow for immediate content 😉 and follow on Instagram for little extras

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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You Do You Boo

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There’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing a garden start to bloom, especially when it started out as a wasteland. Unfortunately, the previous owners of our house hadn’t taken much interest in anything beyond the back door and so what we inherited was their personal dumping ground. I’ve admitted before, I’m not the avid gardener in the family, but I am slowly becoming more interested and most definitely enjoying the fruit of Rich’s hard labour (cheers hubby).

Each plant in the garden is unique and beautiful in its own way and serves a purpose within the greater ecosystem. Some have heavenly scents, others provide shelter for wildlife, some provide pleasure as they flourish in bright and beautiful colours. All require care and planting and all have similar fundamental properties important for their growth. All are established in the same soil in our backyard and must form a solid root system to remain healthy as they grow upwards towards the sun. Each element of nature in the garden is connected and compliments the overall masterpiece (you’re welcome Rich – in faith ;)) that is our garden. The beauty and purpose of one flower doesn’t subtract from the beauty and purpose of another, but rather it adds to the overall picture and essence of the landscape.

There’s something about the snapshot of our garden that speaks to me about life as a Christian. We also require planting and care to grow, including the occasional pruning (ouch). We have many similarities and our fundamental needs as people are the same. Together as His church, we should create a magnificent landscape alluding to the wonder of God. As individuals we are spectacularly unique and yet can unite together to contribute to the common goal of His will. The essence of our Creator is reflected in many finite beings who each have different desires, gifts, preferences and purposes, like the essence of the gardener is reflected in the variety of his masterpiece.

When we say yes to God and grow as Christians – the aim is not to become clones of one other but to be released into the freedom of who we were always destined to be. We’re inextricably linked by the Source of our creation, who provides our planting and nourishment. Whilst we have similarities, individually we have permission to bring our unique beauty to the garden of life. All of us are designed to glorify the creator and together unified all add to the form and strength of His garden. Too often it’s easy to misinterpret salvation and belonging as changing to become carbon copies of one another. God is the one that connects and aligns, not a sterotype or set of behaviours. He unites us with some non-negotiable truths, such as love, grace, mercy, faith and of course Jesus to name but a few. Our commission is the same, however, if we’re not careful we turn unimportant man-made beliefs into obligations under the guise of faith and in doing so try to squeeze people into a mould they were never created to fit.

When you envisage the garden, each plant can only be what it was created to be, nothing more, nothing less, its purpose is set from the beginning. The rose bush fails at producing apples, whilst the lilly will never be evergreen, but that doesn’t make them lacking, it makes them different. To expect them to bloom in ways other than what they were created to do is a course set for failure and misses the opportunity to cultivate the personal beauty within each of them.

Without negative intent, I think at times we Christians, unknowingly guide people into discipleship with a slightly skewed understanding of what it is. The goal of discipleship is not to produce mini ‘each-others’ that all think the same, speak the same and act the same, but rather to point others continually to the ever careful and faithful Gardener. In Him, we find true purpose, kind pruning and continued sustenance. Guided by Him, we find our true place in His garden and learn to love our unique expression of Him whilst still remaining planted in the greater landscape.

We must also guard against comparison amongst ourselves as we step back to view the greater perspective offered by eternity and our relationship with Him. This allows us to dig deep into what it is He has for us to fulfill in this ministry, privilege and opportunity called life. There isn’t only one way to serve, to minister and to be. We all have an important part to play in making the Earth a better place and Heaven more full. 1 Corinthians 12 puts it another way as it likens us as Christians; Christ’s body to a human body made up of different parts, different in function, capacity and size but every part important to the overall purpose.

Let us all celebrate our differences, encourage our unique qualities and embrace each other’s gifts so that we may flourish in our respective patches of the garden. Let us get to know the Gardener who provides all that we need as we grow alongside and compliment one another. Planted in the same ground, watered by the same Source but flourishing in our unique ways. He will guide us into Truth so that we are always growing towards the Son.

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Will The Real Slim Me Please Stand Up

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I’ve recently joined slimming world because I’ve realised that I can’t keep pretending that the clothes I wore pre-baby will one day miraculously fit again. In my mind, I’m still 25 and as fit as I was when training to be a professional dancer, in reality, I have an ever-expanding mum-tum. Whilst proud of the beautiful munchkin produced by the mum-tum, I’m no longer ok with this extra flab taking up permanent residence on my person and I can’t use the excuse of being a new mum anymore – that ship has sailed.

Harsh as it was starring in the mirror at the withered balloon that is now my midriff, I had to face up to the hard fact that to fight back against it, I must actually do something about it. Much to my surprise, I managed to lose a few pounds in the first week of following the programme, and for once, not due to a hole in my purse! I have witnessed actual bonafide weight loss! It’s amazing what we can do when we set our minds to something, and when it costs us something to participate!

I wouldn’t have seen any results or even joined any group had I not first admitted that I was no longer the perfect size 10 and that something had to change! Wearing baggy oversized clothes not only has a time and fashion limit, but nobody is fooled as to what lies beneath, least of all myself. Admitting the need for change to myself was the first step towards getting healthy.

This all got me thinking about why it takes us so long to admit and deal with things in life? To drop the pretense and actually take actions to get help or get better? I don’t know why we put so much pressure on ourselves to appear to be perfect, especially as Christians. Maybe it’s media, celebrity and image, or maybe it’s family, friends or the past? Either way, deep down we know that we actually aren’t perfect. We default to masking our issues and continue to fool ourselves into believing that we’re ok with them and will deal with them at some point in the future. It’s amazing how much we can hide by parading around in baggy T-shirts to cover our underlying issues. The irony is that the longer we smile on the outside and keep up the facade of being ok with whatever situation we are in, the further away we are from seeing real progress and change. As soon as I decided to face the fact that I was no longer my healthiest self and put action into thoughts and words, I saw results quicker than anticipated.

As Christians, we should definitely seek to attain maturity in our faith but this shouldn’t be mistaken for pretending to be perfect. The longer I walk with God and the deeper my relationship with Him develops, the more I realise my need for Him. If I am to actually mature, to love and lead better, I need to be more reliant on Him, His word and His strength. I never want to think or feel like I’ve made it. If that is ever the case, I will have missed the point. Being transformed into His likeness requires pruning. Pruning produces greater fruit, greater influence, greater love, more grace, more of His heart. I believe wholeheartedly that the world needs to look upon our lives and see blessing upon blessing and grace upon grace. They need to see a church flourishing, people with financial freedom, dreams and vision, healings and justice, but for them to see that, we must first admit that we are sick and in need of help. We must conquer mountains and take new ground and move forward and beyond things that hold us back so that we can do more for His kingdom. However, we can’t achieve this if we pretend that life is always a party full of ‘insta’ worthy friendships, relationships and careers all of the time. The truth is that pruning can suck! Pruning requires honesty, sacrifice and perseverance, but pruning produces the BEST fruit.

We mustn’t forget that it was grace motivated by love that bought our freedom, and it is His grace that continues to guide us through life. It is grace that the world needs alongside our honesty and love and a life that signposts to a real Saviour who reached down and pulled us out of our pit and continues to do so. Without Him we have nothing and we are nothing and we produce no good fruit. He enables us to breathe, to live, to love and to laugh, He enables us to dream and upskill, train, do and be. He gives us platforms we don’t deserve and opportunities we couldn’t create ourselves. He is good and kind and faithful, slow to anger and rich in love.

So, will the real slim me please stand up? She’s in there somewhere, underneath the layers! She’s waiting on the other side of some honesty, hard work and sacrifice and a little bit of pruning, discipline and help from some healthy weight loss gurus.

What are you waiting for? What’s on the other side of your fresh admission of your need for a forever Saviour? It could be healing, restoration, freedom, financial stability. Let’s not waste another moment pretending everything is ok. It’s ok not to be ok. We must give ourselves permission to be human and therefore God to be God. It’s not an excuse for sin or complacency but an opportunity to grow, a path towards real freedom.

John 15 v 5 – 8 NIV

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

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!