Delete Forever

DELETE FOREVER

Unfortunately, I’m one of ‘those’ people when it comes to computers! Quite often mistakes are down to user error rather than a computer fault. There are others in the family who are far worse than me but they shall remain nameless so that I don’t get in trouble! One thing I have accidentally done before is pressed the ‘delete forever’ option. It’s great when freeing up space on my computer and I mean to erase that which I have now deemed as ‘trash’. However, it’s not so good when I didn’t mean to remove a file in the first place and in an attempt to retrieve it, I again erase it and banish it forever!

It’s interesting that my computer was designed in such a way that I’m able to resurrect things that I’ve scrubbed out. To undo that which I have done. It’s also interesting that it doesn’t completely delete things the first time even though that’s my intention. This is great when I’ve made a mistake and need to get a piece of work back. Other times it’s frustrating that I have to delve back into my ‘trash’ and choose again to delete the things I thought I’d already erased to ensure that they are completely gone! I wonder if whoever designed it knew that as humans our nature is to hold onto things unnecessarily, or second guess our decisions, or feel the need to drag back into the present that which is belongs in the past. Who knows, they probably didn’t think too philosophically about it, but hey it works for my post.

“Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

1 Corinthians 13 v 5

Yep, I’m still mulling over the words of 1 Corinthians 13. Perhaps it’s due to an increased hunger to experience more of the Presence of God who is Himself Love (1 John 4 v 8) and so I have a heightened awareness of Him and therefore It.

As I read verse 5 through the lens of His love for me, evermore so because it’s Easter, I feel humbled, grateful and undeserving that He chooses to keep no record of my wrongs. To wash them as white as snow and delete them forever as though they never happened. It’s not just forgiveness I receive when I accept His love for me, and that would be more than enough, but it’s no kept record of the dark parts of myself that nailed Him to the cross. That’s pretty mind-blowing. I could thank Him for that forever.

What challenges me is to love likewise. How do we keep no record of wrongs when we are hurt, we are grieved or scarred deeply? To forgive is one thing, and that in itself can take a lifetime, but to keep no record, wow that’s a tough call. Sometimes we might think we are ‘over’ things and perhaps have told ourselves such, when in actual fact we have buried the pain deep within, pushed it aside or tried to close a lid on it. The issue with that, however, is that when you bury a seed it has the potential to grow. Although day to day we may seem ok whilst getting on with life, a root of bitterness may be waiting to spring forth and rear its ugly head. Like a weed, it wishes to sap energy and choke future possibilities to love, have meaningful friendships and relationships, dreams, hopes and purpose. Understanding that the personal stakes are high is not the hard part, the difficulty is in actioning this aspect of love.

There are times when we are right to be angry, when we are victims and when we want to learn from circumstances and guard our hearts for the future, but how do we really find the courage to forever delete the records of those that have hurt us?

I’m not sure the answer is instant, in fact, I think it’s a lifelong pursuit. I guess we would have to start with the cross, for that is where the debt of our wrongdoings has painfully and undeservedly been paid for. I know when I truly think on the love that nailed Jesus to the cross, the last thing on my mind is what others have done to me, but rather what He has done for me. In those moments, all I feel is the warmth and overwhelming sense of His grace. When I know His grace and it penetrates the depths of my soul, it’s abundance seeps out. It’s so important to visit the cross and linger often, to pause and pray, to worship and repent, to cry and to be grateful. But our journey doesn’t end there. We need to look up and look on and see the resurrected Christ, Who draws us unto His life-giving self, full of hope and promise and future and love.

From a place of accepting and knowing His love, we can start to heal and move forward. Embraced by His love, the hurt inflicted on us, intentionally or unintentionally, becomes harder and harder to see as it fades into our past as He leads us heavenward.

One thing I am learning is that there is no limit to the depth of His engulfing love, the more I ponder on it, experience it and sit within its healing, it becomes more and everything else becomes less.

So how do we delete forever and not keep things stagnating in our ‘trash’ file? Well, it’s not so much a case of press this button and it’s gone, but rather the answer is simply, Him. To be in Him, to walk with Him, to allow Him to love us. I imagine it will transpire a little differently for us all as He knows us individually and personally, but the answer is still Him. The many depths and wonders of Him, His love, His grace and His peace.

I pray this Easter as we remember its significance and continue to draw ever closer to Him, the painful things stored away in our memory bank, the insecurities, regrets, hurts and losses will fade evermore into the distance.  

“Love NEVER fails.”

1 Corinthians 13 v 8

Happy Easter 

Why Mums Make Great Leaders

why mums make great leaders

I have sat down to write this post multiple times now and always been unable to finish it because honestly there seems to be an exhaustive list of reasons as to why mums make great leaders. Therefore, I have decided to start an ongoing conversation on the topic rather than a complete one-off blog post.

I must stress at the start that I believe all people, regardless of title, age or background can make great leaders. I simply choose to write about mums in particular because, not only does it provide personal encouragement as I navigate early motherhood, but also mothers historically have been discounted in leadership by others or themselves due to a lack of confidence, knowledge or misplaced perspective as to what leadership is. Fortunately for me, I live in an age and culture where that mindset has shifted, but there is still work to be done.

Motherhood certainly presents many opportunities in which to be stretched, challenged and grown (all the mums’ sigh). Opportunities that enhance and enrich our character and therefore leadership qualities if we allow them. With that said, to kick-start the conversation, here are what I believe to be, two fundamental attributes of good leadership that mums have…

1. Influence

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”

John C. Maxwell

Ultimately I believe that leadership is influence. John C. Maxwell is well known for his teaching on leadership, and the above quote sums up perfectly why a mum can make a great leader. When we realise that leadership isn’t dependent on having a platform or title, we are empowered to lead well in all situations in our everyday lives.

As Sienna’s mummy, I have one of the greatest responsibilities to influence her well; to lead her. The power of a mums influence can shape a child for life. More now than ever I am aware of my influence. How I treat Sienna and others, how I demonstrate integrity and curiosity, my attitude to life and my countenance, all have the ability to help set the foundation for her character. She is unique and wonderful, has her own personality and gifts, and will develop her own set of interests, but my influence can provide an environment in which these things can be nurtured. Will I encourage and praise or criticise and put down? Will I lead with love and faith or bitterness and fear? The answers to those questions will help to set the trajectory for her life. The impact I have, amongst others, will also reach beyond her as she develops her own sense of leadership and influence that emanates from her everyday life.

This daily practised influence will only sharpen any further leadership I am privileged to have, in any sphere of life, with or without title or platform.

Proverbs 22 v 6 NIV

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”  

2 Timothy 1 v 5 NIV

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother, Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

2. Sacrifice

John 15 v 13 (NIV)

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Mum life is hard work, the hardest I’ve ever done, 24/7 responsibility. Sienna had to overcome many little hurdles in her first 6 weeks of life and she wasn’t the easy baby I had imagined sticking in a carrier and picking up from where I left off. 

Before Sienna arrived, I’d been leading a team at church alongside working, socialising, and running at 100mph, and going to the toilet on my own – luxury! (#mumstruggles). There is a freedom and independence that you have pre-kids that somewhat diminishes when you first become a parent. Now other mum’s may have easily embraced this change, but honestly, at the start, I struggled. I had to navigate this new responsibility of motherhood, relinquish control over my life, and lay aside many things that I had previously been involved in. Each mum’s sacrifice is different but equally significant. It’s not forever, but it won’t look the same on return. Hopefully, it will be different but better. 

When you have a child, and in particular a baby, the needs of this little life become a priority. They can’t do much for themselves beyond their involuntary bodily functions, and even some of those have to be taken care of by someone else! When I look at Jesus, Who is, in my opinion, the greatest example of good leadership, His sacrifice was the greatest gift given to all and motivated by love, it changed history forever. As leaders, sometimes I think we get it the wrong way around when we look to those under our care only to do our bidding. Rather, motherhood reminds me that as I make sacrifices to love and value my child, to give her the best start in life, to focus on what I can give rather than get, the hope is that I will provide an environment in which she can flourish. As I encourage Sienna to be the best she can be, she will hopefully be empowered to in turn produce her best, and together as a family will be better and stronger and able to have more impact.

Motherhood is a labour of love. When I consider the scripture, 1 Corinthians 13, it strikes me that the description of love very much coincides with sacrifice. I particularly admire the statement in verse 8 which says, “Love NEVER fails” (emphasis added by me). To love is to sacrifice, but according to that statement, love has 100% success rate. I am learning as a mother that the sacrifices I have made for Sienna, motivated by love, have the potential to have a far greater impact than perhaps the things I initially mourned letting go of. I continue to learn that leadership is in fact servanthood. 

I Corinthians 13 (NIV)

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

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

There’s so much I feel I could write on both of these points as well as many more, but I look forward to exploring this topic further in the future and inviting others to add their perspectives. So, for now, I will leave it there. Hopefully, it has encouraged some and made others think. 

To be continued…

Join the conversation – what do you think?

Good Value This Christmas

good value this christmas

For as long as I can remember my Dad has been a professional Santa at Christmas. Yesterday my mum forwarded a review posted by an elated mother about his epic Santa skills. This year Dad had the opportunity to learn some Makaton; a language programme using signs and symbols that helps people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and can also be useful for those children and adults who struggle to communicate via speech. One little boy visited Santa (my Dad) this year looking only for a picture with the magical present deliverer. His mother explained that he wouldn’t be able to talk with my Dad, who usually has a little conversation with each child. Fortunately, because of his Makaton training, Dad was able to communicate well with the young boy. In the review the mother gushed that this encounter had not only made her year but also made her cry! Go Dad! Such a simple act placed value on a little boy and his mother. In a small way, in that moment my Dad was able to enter into their world and reaffirm their importance.

So many times in the gospels we see how Jesus places value upon others, on those in society that due to the culture of the day would have been seen as less-than in many ways. One particular account that I love is when Jesus heals a man with leprosy, recorded in Matthew 8 v 1-3….

“When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.  A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Other than the incredible fact that Jesus healed him, what I love is the recorded detail that Jesus reached out his hand and touched him. It is likely that this man hadn’t encountered any human touch for a long time due to his leprosy, and the belief that he was therefore unclean. Before Jesus declared that He was willing to heal the man, He first showed him that he was valuable, loved and worthy of being touched even in his current sick state. In reaching out and touching the man he showed His heart of love towards him in a society that would have deemed him as worthless.

Sienna, my now 10 month old daughter is entering a beautiful stage of development, where she has begun to smile at everyone. Her big brown eyes gaze expectantly at people as she waits for them to notice her, and then she welcomes that recognition with a huge grin! The pure joy that shoots across her face when someone gives her a wave or even a hint of attention is infectious. Her smile is genuine and pure and you can’t help but beam from the inside out in return. This unbiased, non-judgemental and unconditional love that she offers, often gets a coo and a smile in response, and in that moment offers a metaphorical outstretched hand to the lucky recipient. From the full tank of love, smiles and acceptance that she has received from myself and Rich, as well as her close family and friends, she is able to offer the same to others. She hasn’t yet learned to conceal her true feelings and so what you see is what you get.

This Christmas season I’m reminded again how easy and important it is to value one another. Jesus stepped out of His glory and took on human flesh, to once again place value on all humanity. A value so great it cost Him his life. From an overflow of love, He paid the ultimate price so that we may know how valuable we are to Him. My prayer this Christmas is that He would help me to continue to know His love and my true value in Him, and so therefore be empowered to show it to others. If we could keep life that simple I wonder what a difference that would have on us, and what a difference we could make to our world. In knowing our own value, we also learn the value of others.  

1 John 4 v 19

“We love because He first loved us.”

Fruit Is Best Enjoyed In Season

strawberry

We live in an age where most things are available at most times. This can be a great thing. The opportunity to Facetime my husband when he’s away due to 24/7 wifi. The ease of buying and sending gifts to loved ones who don’t reside in the same city or even country as myself. I do wonder, however, if the constant access to things, and the incessant busyness that we so often find ourselves in, has undermined the necessity and pleasure of waiting for things, and truly enjoying them. Like a fine wine that needs to mature, some things in life need time in order to produce the best results.

Now I’m no gardener, both my Dad and husband can attest to that, but I am an accomplished eater (hello), and I do have a rudimentary understanding of the gardening basics. Over the summer I was enjoying some delicious British strawberries, when my mother-in-law stated how much better they tasted in comparison to the imported ones sold during the rest of the year. This got me thinking, “fruit is always best enjoyed in its correct season”. According to Jamieshomecookingskills.com (fount of all knowledge obviously, thanks Google), “Fruit and vegetables naturally grow in cycles, and ripen during a certain season each year. When they are ripe, they are at their best nutritionally and taste-wise …. If you eat ‘seasonally’, you are eating fruit and vegetables during the time of year they are naturally at their best”. Makes sense. To apply this logic as a metaphor for life, I wonder how many times I have tried to rush through a season and wanted something to be “ripe” before its time; a job, career or dream before it was ready, a relationship, position or gift before it was mature.

In the Bible, we see that Moses had a natural desire to see justice for his people, the Hebrews, who had been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years. This was a good desire, in fact a godly desire. However, out of season, and acted on before the correct time, this inner passion turned into anger, and resulted in him committing a terrible crime and fleeing for his life (see Exodus 2). In the correct season, after growth, pruning and nourishment, and a lot of time, that desire matured and was correctly planted in God where it was “naturally at its best”. This allowed him to finally lead his people to freedom in the most epic way (see Exodus 3-14).

When we desire things to bud straight away in our fast microwave culture, we don’t allow the soil of our lives to settle and replenish the “nutrients” we need in order to harvest the best crop. When we look for a quick fix; import in foreign goods rather than wait, perhaps we lose a sense wonder and excellence that comes from pursuing the real deal. Maybe we miss out on the lesson of the current moment by trying to fast-forward to results not properly earned.

In John 15, Jesus reassures the disciples, and us, that we were created to bear fruit, fruit that will last. For me, this takes the pressure off trying to see results prematurely, as it implies that it’s part of who I am in Him, to produce good things in life. Sometimes I may need a little pruning and nurturing, but this is all benefit as it helps produce ripened mature fruit.

Just like eating fruit before its ready can cause issues, (say hello to the toilet!), trying to push a relationship, gift, ministry, career, desire or goal before its time can be detrimental. I hope I can discern the season, embrace the wait, replenish the soil, trust that I’m designed to bear good fruit, allow for some pruning, and best enjoy fruit in its season.

Dust Yourself Off and Try Again

dust yourself off 2

Today I caught Sienna attempting to lift herself up on the step to the hallway for the first time. She’s 9 months old this week and nearly crawling. Her current favourite movements are the downward dog and the army crawl. It’s so interesting to watch how fast she has developed. I find myself amazed at how she manages to squirrel herself under or over something, in order to reach the item she is determined to have. It’s like she has an innate determination to try. No one has told her she can, and likewise no one has told her she can’t.

Sienna has an instinct to roll over, to crawl and to walk. Of course as parents, once Rich and I sense that she is attempting a new phase of development, we start to encourage it. Some things, like talking, she will first observe and then attempt, and hopefully learn to effectively communicate (bearing in mind I’m from Stoke and Rich is from Wellingborough!)

All of this got me pondering, “I wonder when we learnt to stop trying; to give up?”. I’m sure this question has been comprehensively explored by psychologists and sociologists, and is affected by many factors, but it occurred to me that we are seemingly born with an instinct to try. So if this is true, why do we stop trying in some areas? This must be a learnt behaviour.

I guess when we learn to reason, we can reason ourselves out of trying and vice versa. This isn’t always a bad thing. If you have been endlessly pursuing the apple of your eye to no avail, maybe there should come a point when you ease off the stalker vibes and take the hint, or maybe you should continue to believe (pester), driven by a romantic vision of driving off into the sunset together. This is where wisdom kicks in. Obviously, there are some things we should let go of, but in the pursuit of good dreams, and healthy, life-affirming, exciting goals, we have to know that it’s inbuilt within us to try and try again. 

Sienna’s development doesn’t happen overnight, and just because she has the instinct to do something, it doesn’t mean she achieves it straight away. On the contrary, it takes quite a few attempts, and therefore quite a few failures, sometimes mini tantrums, and often a few knocks. However, her little determined spirit pushes her to try again until she reaches her goal.

Reflecting on some lyrics from a song by the late Aliyah, (*sings in head), “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again..” perhaps my 9 month old daughter could teach us a little about how God designed us and intended us to live. I realise life doesn’t always afford everyone the encouragement of those around them, the perfect circumstances or maybe the great results we had all hoped for, but if we were designed to try, with an inbuilt determination to succeed, maybe we can hit the reset button, dust ourselves off and try again. Just like a computer that has been hit by a virus, maybe we could reboot the system, rediscover our factory settings, and override all of the negative experiences that have dampened our hope and convinced us that we shouldn’t try anymore.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but I take courage when watching Sienna try, and try again. Every now and then she gets upset, I comfort her, dust her off, reset her balance, and off she goes.

For me, seeking God is my reset button. When life becomes overwhelming, or I feel like I’ve failed one too many times, I set time aside to restore my settings, realign my core convictions, let courage take hold of my heart and determine to try again. The good news for me is that I’m always met with grace; undeserved favour. Not only am I met with grace but I’m also empowered by it.

Perhaps the greatest reset of all time, was when Jesus died on the cross to erase the debt of my failures, past, present and future, and rose again to show me the way to victory and my future. I take heart in the everlasting opportunity to reset and try again.

Hebrews 4 v 16

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”

Psalm 138 v 3

“When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.”

If my creator, the creator of the Universe, the one who designed me, the one who created my factory settings and wrote the manual, has given me a fresh start, then He can do it for you too.

Dust yourself off and try again.

Fight The Good Fight of Faith

This is just a quick blog post inspired by today’s verse on the YouVersion Bible app. Aren’t we so blessed in our generation, in the western world, to have so much access to His word through many mediums? I hope I don’t waste that opportunity.

Anyway, that’s another thought for another time! Today’s verse:

fight the good fight

A couple of weeks ago Rich and I were hit with a nasty stomach bug. The kind that brings no warning and knocks you out for a good 24 hours. The onset for me happened sooner than Rich and I started to feel a little queasy early on in the day. I managed to ignore it until the afternoon, when suddenly my food decided to make an unwelcome reappearance. I HATE being sick, now I don’t think I’ve met anyone that particularly enjoys vomiting, but I know it can bring a sense of relief afterwards, yet still, I HATE throwing up! It fills me with dread as it takes over my whole body and makes me uncontrollably eject the contents of my stomach everywhere! Nice!

Not only was I throwing up but I was also at home looking after our adorable, then 7 month old, whilst Rich was at work. She had just discovered how to use rolling as a form of transport and was happily exploring the entirety of our living room in this way. We’d just handed back the borrowed  “bouncy” chair the day before, which Rich and I had lovingly named the third parent for the times when we just needed a moment. Oh the glorious “bouncy” chair! Sienna is a little like Tigger – she loves to bounce, and often if I needed to do something quickly I could pop her in there and run and do it, knowing she wasn’t going to fall or roll into anything.

So here I am, no “bouncy” chair, my “roly poly” baby and on the verge of projectile vomiting any moment. I have to admit that when I’m physically sick, I am a little pathetic, just a little. Rich has often found me lying on the bathroom floor in times of sickness, feeling sorry for myself, groaning, “I can’t move.” This time I didn’t have that “luxury”, in between running off (more like bent over wobbling) to be sick and then cleaning myself up, I had to make sure that Sienna hadn’t rolled over to the TV and attempted to rewire everything!

Lying there on the floor next to her, whilst she smiled obliviously and banged together her building blocks, I felt pretty weak and sorry for myself. I did somehow manage to make her a bottle and feed her in between episodes, I guess it’s because I didn’t have a choice. Now that I’m a mother I don’t have the opportunity to not turn up to “work” because I’m not feeling great, and even though all I could muster was lying next to her until the next wave of sickness came, it never crossed my mind that there may be a get-out clause. I just had keep to going, even if momentarily that was just “showing up”, being present, and doing the basics because that’s all I could give.

Reading this verse today, reminded me again that we have to fight for our faith. It’s arguably one of the most important things we possess. Why is it then, that when I have moments of weakness or I feel overwhelmed I can too easily give up? Why is there a get-out clause or an option to “tap out”? Sometimes if all I can muster in the fight, is lying on the floor and just being present, then it’s still important to show up. There’s far too much at stake to bow out.

I want to encourage you also, if all you have within you today is enough to just show up, go ahead and do it anyway, because just like our stomach bug only lasted for 24 hours, “..weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning…” (Psalm 30 v 5). Your “night” season might feel like it’s forever enduring, but when we understand that it’s a fight we’re in, we can accept that there will be battles to face. Battles can bring wounds and weariness, but I take hope in the fact that I am on the winning side. Jesus tells his disciples and also us, “…I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world..” John 16 v 33. Our faith fight is won by placing our faith in Him. In Him we find peace and strength to fight another day.