You Do You Boo

YOU DO YOU BOO copy.png

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.

PS – blog followers, there’s more bits and bobs on instagram

PPS – insta followers, there’s a teeny little follow button on the bottom right hand side of the page which means you can get new posts straigh to your inbox 🙂 

Remain In Love

REMAIN in love (1) copy

This post is just some thoughts I had on John 15 today, rather than my usual style of blog post. The next ‘official’ blog is coming shortly, so disclaimer if it’s not what you expected and there’s an undeniable multiple and heavy use of the word love!

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“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.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.”

John 15 NIV

Yes, I’m still on the love vibe, riding that love wave like a Jesus hippy. Not always intentionally if I’m honest, nevertheless, I guess God is drawing me into something.

So many times I have read the above scripture and missed some of its beautiful truth. There’s so much to glean from this one passage. I must remain in Him, the possibilities of my eternal fruit-bearing potential depend on it in fact. I draw my strength from being connected to Him, there’s no doubt about that. I recognise that pruning is for my benefit however uncomfortable, it fortifies me, deepens my roots and ultimately produces greater fruit. Without Him I am nothing, that’s clear. Yet all the while I’ve missed the blatant and glaringly obvious command given right in the midst of it. I’ve understood that I must keep his commands and perhaps without realising have thought this required some sort of dutiful compliance on my part. Obedience isn’t a bad thing when you know the intent. 

However, as I have read it afresh this week, what has leapt off the page at me, is that remaining in Him and keeping His commands look like loving others. Jesus Himself reminds us in Matthew 22 v 37 – 40 that all of the law and the prophets depend on the greatest commands of love – to love God and to love others. And yet at every turn it’s so easy to miss in our religious ways. It’s no small and easy thing to love others, especially when they aren’t easy to love, but really it is what most reflects Him and what truly bears precious fruit. What empowers me with the ability to do that again and again? Through ease and discomfort and all of the sometimes seemingly painstaking list of loves attributes noted in 1 Corinthians 13? Remaining in His love. His love is my source, His love bears fruit through me and gives strength and purpose to my love. The fruit of His love is more love, love that changes things, that messes things up in the right kind of ways. When we lead with love, look with love, start with love, forgive with love, atmospheres are changed and strongholds are broken. God doesn’t want our sacrifices of time and hard work, loyalty and striving, He wants our love. He doesn’t want us to do better, to do more, to be more, He wants us. Love is key. Love is the way, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life; God IS love!

Love does, love acts, love serves, love calls out injustice, love goes the extra mile, love is patient and kind and keeps no record of wrongs. The receiving of love breaks down walls, it makes one trust, it draws people out and it embeds security. It makes us stand taller, believe harder, dream bigger and most of all, love never fails (1 Corinthians 13 v 12).

My perception of this verse has changed and deepened, my revelation of the constant need to receive and make use of His love has quickened. His all-consuming, abundant, heaven-come-to-earth kind of love.

So much I could write, so many scriptures I could use but all I choose is this – Lord let me remain in you, in your love. To truly know it, to feel it, to be wrapped in it and to exude it to others. Help me to love others how you love me, the good, the bad and the ugly, teach me to remain. Help me to know what’s important. Love.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

1 John 4 v 7 – 12

 

Merry-Go-Round

MERRY-GO-ROUND copy

On a recent trip to Brighton, I enjoyed a brush with the past and some childhood whimsy as I joyfully rode on a merry-go-round. I was a little sceptical as to whether I would enjoy it as much as I did as a child, but I needn’t have worried, because it was blooming marvellous! However, it did seem to last a little too long and towards the end, it was becoming a little awkward being one of only two adults on a ride full of mostly children. Plus, there’s only so many times you can circulate the same views before becoming mildly nauseated (I loved it really!)

There’s nothing wrong with a little fun on a fairground ride and life should most definitely be enjoyed. However, like the merry-go-round that repeated the same motions over and over, and continued around the same axis a little too long for my liking, life too can become tiring, boring and nauseating when we continue to circle around the same issues. Week after week or even year upon year we can face the same battles if we’re not careful. Sometimes they’re disguised as something different but if we dig a little deeper, we’d see the root of our issues is still very much the same. Whether it’s a struggle with relationships or finances, insecurities, health concerns or our past, life has a way of allowing us to think that we’re making progress. We appear to be moving forward until something happens that forces us to realise we’ve actually been journeying around in a large circle only to have ended up right back where we started.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we’re supposed to speed through life and conquer one thing after the other like we are totalling up points in a computer game, and I also believe that certain things take time to process and change. We need time to grow and mature. Nevertheless, I wonder how much more I could accomplish or how much further on I could be in some areas of my life had I jumped off the merry-go-round of some of my struggles sooner and dealt with them earlier. Can anyone relate? Like the moments you think to yourself, “why am I here again?” Or “why am I dealing with this again?”

I can’t help but think of the plight of the Israelites in Exodus, as they travelled unknowingly and unnecessarily for much longer than needed in the desert. A people miraculously rescued from slavery, destined to be known as “God’s people”. They were guided and protected by His Presence, despite themselves, and set up to show the world the Glory of an amazing, saving, all-powerful God. Which they did, through no effort or deservedness of their own but purely because of God’s mercy and grace. One of the saddest things about their wilderness experience is that the oldest generation saved from Egyptian slavery died in the desert. Thank God that their offspring still went on to inherit the land the Lord had promised, but I can’t help but feel a little sorrow for those who perished in their desert season, they were saved for freedom and yet missed out on their promise. Their discouragement and grumbling claimed their inheritance. They failed to remember and see the goodness of God and mature from their past issues.

It makes me ponder my own life and salvation and some of the things that maybe I encircle around. Things that have held me hostage for too long when I should be living in a promise. Doesn’t the world need to see the people who claim to be God’s, carrying His Presence, seeing His victory and overcoming their battles and living in the promise? Not for selfish or exclusive reasons that lord it over others, instead because people everywhere have needs and face various issues daily. They could do with knowing about a loving and saving God who, despite the issues of life is able to penetrate our circumstances with His grace, favour, healing and restorative power. There’s not only our promise at stake but others too.  

Of course, when we become Christians, life doesn’t just magically and instantly improve. We learn many things gradually as our revelation of Him deepens. But, what holds us back from our breakthrough? What stops us from taking hold of the promises of God? Yes, we have been ‘saved’ and our eternity is sure and that’s the most amazing gift we have, but to quote Brian Houston, “There is more” for us now. More to pursue, more to do, more to be. Eternity starts now.

What if we weren’t always playing a defensive game which sees us reacting to the issues of life, feeling like we’re always on the back foot and just managing to get through? What if we played in the offence for a change. Rather than feeling like we’re always fending off the attacks of the enemy when they arise, why not start from a position of victory (1 Corinthians 15 v 57), put on our armour (Ephesians 4) and take some ground for a change. Move forward. Advance. First, in our own lives so that we can cease riding upon the same old problems. Then, for the lives of others so that we are free to actually show and tell the good news of Who God is in our everyday lives. Whilst we remain on the defensive and focus on putting out the same old fires, we are distracted from deploying all that we have access to as children of God (Romans 8 v 16) and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8 v 17) to take down the kingdom of the enemy. We don’t want the world to look on and wonder what’s so special about being a Christian, but rather think I want to know their God. Will life stop throwing us lemons? No. We are after all part of a greater eternal battle, but we can learn to slice those lemons and make delicious lemonade for ourselves and others along the way. A soldier with some successful battles under his/her belt has the confidence to pursue the enemy and wisdom to take him down.

So what must we do? Well this is just a short blog post and not a Bible study, plus I’m running out of words but here are three quick things I’m learning to practice:

Pray – It’s absolutely one of our greatest weapons and key to unlocking our breakthroughs. It connects us with God, opens heaven, keeps focus, changes us and declares truth. I start with the Lord’s prayer because, well, Jesus told us how to pray, so it has to be the best way.

Don’t Delay – This is a very tenuous title (don’t judge me!), but I wanted them all to rhyme! So, here are some cheeky subpoints that are actually the point! Don’t delay:

  • In the Word – It’s alive and active and our firm foundation. It guides, declares, corrects and brings life. 
  • In taking action – whether that be getting help, stopping or starting something, just do it!

Slay – Change my perspective and therefore my position. I’m on the side of victory and I’m going after that which belongs to God. We have no reason to fear when we realise the battle is the Lords.  

FYI – I haven’t got this nailed! But we can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results. God is good – let’s hold Him to it. Time to get off the merry-go-round.

Serious Fomo

SERIOUS FOMO copy.png

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?

Heart’s Intent

HEART'S INTENT copy

There are so many fun new things to experience with Sienna as she continues to develop and grow, and she certainly has a curious mind and adventurous spirit. With each new week, we witness her try new things, increase in understanding and attempt new words. She takes joy in repeating and practising that which she’s learnt and lucky for us we get to partake in this repetition, over and over and over and over again!

Along with new pleasures come new frustrations and anxieties for her cute little self. There’s still much to learn and understand as her comprehension is still infant. One of Sienna’s ‘wonderful’ phases of development we currently ‘get to’ navigate is bouts of separation anxiety. This is where children may experience some anxiety when away from their loved ones. Helping her to understand that we will always return can be a tricky endeavour whilst she is unable to comprehend an explanation of what’s happening. However, the more she experiences our return and the consistency of our character in this way, the more assurance will build within her. Her anxiety now, is due in part, to her lack of knowledge and understanding.

As parents, we try our best to teach her new language and ways in which to help her let us know her feelings, needs and desires. We also endeavour to gradually expose her to different experiences with us, so that, as in the case of separation anxiety, she will soon have a full memory bank of positive encounters with the faithfulness of our return and her anxiety will become a thing of the past. Whilst these things can be difficult to deal with now, as we spend time together daily, reinforcing our love for her and teaching her our ways, her revelation of us will grow. The hope is that she will learn the consistencies of our character and the increasing depth of our love. That she will know and understand that it’s our pleasure to help her, to love her, to ease her pain and to teach her. With that, also comes discipline and whilst we don’t enjoy saying ‘no’ to her we do it because of our love for her. Our love causes us to want the best for her, and eating wires, putting her hands in the bin and throwing things in the toilet isn’t that!

My encounters with her often cause me to wonder about my own experiences with my Heavenly Father. I remember times in which I have been frustrated and anxious and wonder if sometimes it was due to a lack of knowledge or understanding of Who He is and His intentions towards me. How many times have I missed his guidance or discipline because I didn’t understand the motivation? I think about the times I’ve lacked comprehension of His ways and wonders, and been distant from His word which has caused me to feel separation anxiety. What am I missing out on now even because I haven’t taken the time to know Him more? This reminds me of a verse in Hosea, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.”(Hosea 4 v 6). It’s sad to think that things, hopes, dreams, understanding and worse – people may perish due to lack of knowledge when it’s been freely given. I want nothing more than for Sienna to be able to see the love behind the decisions we make, as well as be able to clearly communicate with us so that we can respond quickly and accordingly. I imagine our Heavenly Father may feel much the same in wanting us to know more about Him and understand His love.

As a family, we have daily opportunities to grow together, to learn, to laugh, to love, to communicate and to flourish as our understanding of each other deepens. As Sienna’s communication develops, conversations will flow more freely and become two way, understanding will grow and revelation will deepen. The good news is, it’s not too dissimilar for us as children of God. He wants to be known, if that were not true He would not have revealed Himself to us time and time again. We only know Him because He allows us to in many ways but perhaps most clearly through Jesus. The invitation is to know Him more, to also grow together as a family so that we may know His heart and intentions towards us so that we can live the life He has called us to and enjoy His Presence and Fatherly love.

I wonder if some of the anxieties and frustrations that you are feeling today could be eased if you could understand the intentions of a good Heavenly Father towards you and how it’s his pleasure to respond. Furthermore its His pleasure to know you. Jesus reveals His heart over and over throughout the gospels, in fact, His whole life and death point towards His motivation towards us. I leave you with this scripture and trust that you, like me, will accept His invitation to know Him more. I pray that not only will our understanding develop but the vaults of our memory will fill to overflowing with experiences of His goodness as we take on the challenge to grow as His kids.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. ‘Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’”

Matthew 7 v 7 – 11

 

One Shot

one shot

I was watching BBC Breakfast recently and a gentleman in an interview made this statement, “There’s no dress rehearsal for life.” He inferred that we’ve only got one shot at this thing called “life”, so therefore we may as well give it all that we’ve got. For whatever reason, at that moment his words really struck a chord with me, and I started to think about all of the time I’ve wasted throughout my life waiting for some kind of permission to live my best life. Perhaps due to waiting in a false humility for opportunities to present themselves, taking scripture out of context and not wanting to self-elevate. Self- promotion for the sake of selfish gain is never a good thing, but we can so often confuse that with passionately and unapologetically pursuing the fulfilment of all that God has placed within us.

Have you ever apologised for yourself? Apologised for your gifts or passions? Not wanted to seem too keen, or held yourself back because you wanted to be a good servant. Being a good servant and honouring leadership are wonderful things, I’m not talking about being a lone ranger and doing your own thing through selfish ambition. However, we have one short span of time called life to use up the potential, gifts and passions within us to the betterment of humanity for the glory of God, so what are we waiting for? What a sad thing it would be, to be at the door between this world and the next and still be full of potential, like a battery full of energy but never used. I want all of my potential to have run out because it’s been converted into destiny.

For a long time I misunderstood calling and purpose and it sometimes stunted me from moving forward whilst I waited for permission from God or others to be me. From a pure heart of wanting to do the right thing and not miss out on His “calling” for my life, I ended up often more confused and frustrated as I waited for a big flashing sign to guide me in a certain direction. When I realised that I was “called out of darkness into His wonderful light,” (1 Peter 2 v 9) and that my purpose, therefore, was to help others know this same transformation; “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19), my whole perspective changed. No longer did I need permission to be me, to be who God created me to be, to love the things that I loved and be good at the things I was good at. I didn’t need confirmation as to whether or not I was “called” to be a dancer or this or that, but rather I shifted my focus to see the bigger picture.So often as Christians we can over-complicate things. This must give the devil much amusement as we trip over ourselves whilst trying earnestly to be our best selves by somehow quenching the very things that we love. It’s simpler than we think. Romans 12 v 1-2 sums it up beautifully,

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” (The Message)

Give your life to God, every bit of it, and be you. Be you, your best you, and in doing so, every day give your life to God, your breathing, thinking, planning, dreaming, mundane, exciting, interactions and relationships. Give it all to God and get on with it. If we seek God and His kingdom first (Matthew 6 v 33) and truly worship Him in everything, then we can rest assured that, “..then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.”  (Romans 12 v 2 NIV).

The goal is Christ, to be in His Presence and to be transformed by His Presence. If we gave our every day to Him, we would love more, forgive more and be kinder. We’d be the best boss, the best daughter/son, sister/brother, wife/husband, mother/father, friend. We’d be the best customer at the checkout, the greatest encourager, the most generous giver. We’d notice people and care about others and the world entrusted to us. We’d work hard to pursue our desires because we could rest assured they were His too as we delight in Him (Psalm 37 v 4). Our natural bent, the overflow from our heart would be to bless others and grow His Kingdom on earth. So often we make the goal the gift, “call”, ministry, career, purpose, achievement, success and miss the simplicity of just being, being in Him.

If we aimed to fully know Him and be fully known by Him, we would question less if we’re doing the right or wrong thing because we’d know Him and His character. I’ve been with Rich now for a decade and his wife for 8 years of that. It’s safe to say I know him pretty well, we talk every day, we share the fun times and the hard times, and I’m pretty confident I know how’d he react in most situations. I know how he’d feel about a variety of subjects because I’ve taken the time to build our relationship, and it’s two way. I know his heart.

When I look at the Israelites, they were imperfect and often foolish and grumbling. Yet God chose them to reflect His goodness. He rescued them, saved them, won battles for them and provided for them. The world looked on in awe as His Presence, protection and provision were with them, despite themselves. There’s a whole world out there, in all types of situations, circumstances, jobs, cities, countries and war zones that need to look at us and see God’s Presence. They need to see the blessing of being under His protection and salvation despite our failures and mistakes. They need to see us being our best selves because our identity is placed in Him, our love flows from Him and His grace helps us each day. They need to see what it’s like to be called out of darkness into His wonderful light and in so doing want it too.

It’s time to stop worrying, fretting, deliberating, apologising. Pray, find His Presence, look for His peace and go for it! We have one life! Make the most of it!

365 Days Later

365 days later

Technically upon writing this, it’s only 361 days since the birth of our beautiful daughter Sienna, but it’s her birthday week and I try and post on Mondays, what are a few days between friends?

Coming up to her first birthday has made me reflect on this past year and the highs and lows of becoming a parent.
I thought I’d ask myself and Rich, “If we had to choose three things that we’ve learnt over the past year what would they be?” It’s almost an impossible task to only pick three because it can be a daily stretch into the unknown, navigating continual beginnings, as she progresses from one stage to the next. However, we’re always up for the challenge so here they are:

Anna:

I’m Stronger Than I Think – Perseverance Pays Off

Perseverance takes on a whole new meaning when there is no get-out-clause, you’re sleep deprived and you have no previous experience to draw from. In the early days, weeks and months it often felt like I was climbing a rocky mountain in flip-flops after not sleeping for a month! An uphill battle, with the least amount of energy, whilst feeling totally ill-equipped. Every now and then you stop to take a breathe and are awed by the view, but then it’s head down and back to the grind. However, I made it, each day was followed by night and each night followed by a new day. One step at a time, often one day at a time I put one foot in front of the other and just kept going. Not because it was easy, not because I had the training, not because I was always excited or passionate but because I had to. Now I think back to those early days as welcome distant memories, smiling at the highlights. Today Sienna presents new challenges with her strong will and determination (ha!) but every day she brings joy and life, and to see her grow and learn, smile and flourish make every drop of blood, sweat and tears worth it. There’s no amount of preparation that can make you ready for your individual unique child, it’s a journey that has to be lived, like many things in life.

I Love Sleep – Discipline Reaps Rewards

Thank God for sleep training! Like anything worth doing, it requires consistency and determination but it has huge benefits. From the start, we established the difference between night-time and day-time for Sienna due to some great advice. It hasn’t been easy and this year has meant I’ve hardly left the house on an evening. However, she now has no issues going to sleep pretty much anywhere as she’s in such a good routine, the sacrifice and continuity are really paying off. Parents have different approaches to different things but most likely for most, there’s still some discipline involved somewhere. Discipline requires keeping the long-term goal in view in order to outwork the daily, often mundane tasks to achieve your goals. Discipline can feel restrictive but it actually brings freedom in the end. Freedom to plan, freedom to enjoy its benefits, freedom from issues avoided through lack of discipline.

Just Call Me Bendy Barbie – Flexibility Is Key

One huge lesson for me has been learning to relinquish the need to always be in control. Preparation and schedules are all important and necessary but when the poop hits the nappy at 3 am in the morning in catastrophic proportions, you have to strip your child and chuck them in the bath whether you or they like it or not! I like to be in control of my own life, that’s not an uncommon or unreasonable ask. I’ve learnt to make plans but hold onto them lightly. I take a breath and whatever happens, try and enjoy and embrace the moment I find myself in. There’s nothing as important as this little tiny life that can’t wait another 5 minutes, a day, a week, a month or even a year if necessary.

Rich:

Be Kind To Each Other- Everyone Has Had A Tough Day

Being a parent is not easy. Whether it’s dealing with a cranky child all day, or having no sleep and having to go to work and deliver on projects. It’s tough, you’re shattered and probably just about holding it all together. It can be so easy in this type of stretching environment to play the “woe is me” card and paint a picture of how your day was way worse and far more stressful than that of your spouses… but don’t. Be kind to each other, prefer one another, go out of your way for one another. Try and laugh together, enjoy the absurdity of parenthood. Be kind with your words, they’re the oil that keeps the wheel spinning.

Children Love Easily And Forgive Quickly

It’s true and thank God that’s the case. We all get it wrong, probably way too frequently for our liking, but children are far more forgiving and resilient than we give them credit for. They aren’t insecure, they don’t care about what people think about them. As far as they’re concerned, they are the most awesome human being in existence. They don’t try and hide their emotions to be cool when daddy comes home from work, Sienna’s face lights up. When daddy tells Sienna off for touching the TV, there’s usually lots of frowns and a few tears, but her default position is towards love and closeness. It’s only when we grow up do we, unfortunately, learn how to be insecure.

“Important” Things Aren’t Really That Important

Oscar Wilde once said, “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.” I like that thought. This year has been a discovery of what actually matters. As adults, we get so myopic in our view of success. Having Sienna has stripped away all pretence. The things I used to worry about just aren’t as important as they used to be. Perhaps I’ve got wiser, maybe I’m just more tired. Whatever it is, it feels good to remember that Sienna couldn’t care less whether I’m good at my job or not. She doesn’t care whether I get promoted, get a pay rise or drive a nice car. She just knows me as Dad, and to be honest I think that’s pretty cool.

365 days later sienna

 

The Rose

the rose pink

In the “Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis, a spell is cast in the magical land of Narnia by the Wicked Witch making it always winter, “..but never Christmas..”. A relentless season of cold and frigid weather. Sometimes if we’re honest life can feel a bit like that. Have you ever felt disappointed or discouraged with life, people, yourself or even God? I know I have. Sometimes you feel like you’ve waited long enough for your promise; your spouse, a child, a job, a ministry, a career, a friend, approval.

There’s a beautiful song called “The Rose”, sung by Bette Midler and written by Amanda Mcbroom. It’s a song I was introduced to by my Father, and the lyrics have always resonated with me. At the start, it sounds like a sombre song as it recounts pictures of love that are close to heartbreaking. The final verse continues to seem like a woeful picture of lost potential within us, due to the weathering of life and the bitterness of a winter season. However, it doesn’t end there….

“When the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long

And you think that love is only

For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed

That with the sun’s love

In the spring

Becomes the rose”

Lyrics are taken from “The Rose” written by Amanda Mcbroom © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc and sang by Bette Midler

Whenever I hear this song, my heart smiles at the lyrics of the above verse. I can’t help but imagine my Saviour’s; The Son’s love beaming down on me. If I close my eyes, it’s almost a tangible feeling of warmth as I accept once again His countenance towards me and allow His love to flood over me.

Within each of us, there are thoughts, feelings, desires, hopes, disappointments and aches that are buried at the bottom of our soul, only to be fully known and reached by God. There is no counterfeit for His Presence and Grace. Only His love can bring life to that which feels dead or broken.

Too often I’ve focused on the bitterness of a winter period and not sought the Son’s love which only leaves me feeling empty and frustrated. In my recent prayer time, I have found myself returning over and again to 1 Corinthians 13, which I used to illustrate a point for, “Why Mums Make Great Leaders”. When repeatedly drawn to the same passage of scripture, I know God is wanting to reveal something more of Himself through it. The Message interpretation at the end of verse 7 states, “I’m bankrupt without love.” What a powerful statement of truth. The previous verses speak about love being paramount above all things, we can do a number of great exploits but if we don’t have love, we are nothing.

Bankrupt; spent, empty, lacking, void.

The truth is we all need love. The Beatles were onto something when they sang, “All you need is love.” I am blessed to have a husband, family and friends who love me dearly and wholly, and yet none of their love, as precious as it satisfies the depths of my soul covered by a winter’s snow, like that of the Son’s love. He is able to melt away all that clings onto the essence of who I am, good or bad, to penetrate even the parts of myself that I don’t fully know or understand, and am therefore unable to change. Within all of us lies a thirst that can only be quenched by His love. A love unexplainable, inexplicable, abounding and all-encompassing.

As valentines day creeps up on us, I pray that you will know that there is a love for you that satisfies beyond romance and human affection or adoration. I hope you feel the tangible warmth of His love this Valentine’s week, and always. I encourage you to read again, or for the first time, 1 Corinthians 13. Steal away some time with the ultimate Lover of your soul, and rather than see the scripture as a list of things that we have to do in order to love others, read it as how He loves you. 

“…God is Love.”

1 John 4 v 8

Happy New Year!

 

 

This is going to sound a bit cliché and like I’m quoting a song lyric, but this year has been somewhat of a rollercoaster! I’ve lived through fear and faith, success and failure, joy and despair, growth and stand still, birth and endings, new and old, comfort and loneliness, confidence and doubt, excitement and monotony. Often it’s happened simultaneously or in a pendulum like fashion, swinging from one extreme to another, sometimes in the same hour! 2017 has seen some of the highest points and some of the lowest points I have ever had to deal with. That said, I made it, and not only did I make it but I’m excited to step into 2018. I’ve been stretched and tested in every way, physically, mentally and spiritually….. would I change anything? YES I would… ha! But that’s what a new year is for, a new page, a chance to apply all that I’ve learnt and grown in 2017. I never arrive, but I journey forward and hopefully leave behind what I don’t need, and take up what will nourish me and help me to build in 2018.

I’m grateful for every experience, everything has taught me something, good, bad or ugly and that is valuable! Grace has sustained me, and whilst my faith has been challenged, questioned and strained at times it is still the thread that weaves everything together, and ultimately brings me out on top. It resets my failures, informs my best decisions, gives me another chance and drives my passions. Without it I wouldn’t be me.

2018…. let’s go!