All You Need Is Love

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

In a world and political landscape that increasingly seems to highlight division and is more interested in being known for what it’s against rather than for, it’s especially important this Christmas to remember love. Whilst others are set on fighting against each other we have to remain set on fighting with each other. With so many opinions that wish to divide, we have to find a cause that unites.

Jesus told His disciples that people would know that they are His disciples by the way in which they loved one another (John 13:35) He didn’t say we should always agree although scripture instructs us to work for peace and unity (Ephesians 4:3-6) He didn’t create us to look the same or have the same interests but He did command that we should always love, love God and love others (Luke 10:27) There’s definitely room for healthy debate as we work towards finding solutions and answers. There’s also room for differing opinions and preferences as we aim to live peacefully alongside each other but there is definitely ‘no room at the Inn’ for our misplaced hate, we have but one true enemy and whilst we fight against each other we miss the bigger picture.

Love undoubtedly is hard, it requires us to forgive when it’s undeserved, it requires us to show grace when we want to point fingers and place blame. It’s so easy to bulldoze our way through life and people as we each champion our individual causes, but it’s so much harder to do it in love. Fortunately, it’s not something we have to try and conjure up in our own strength by striving to be right or better. Rather, God is love. He gives love and He is love and His love freely flows through us as we allow it.

Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birth for the Christian, isn’t the start of the account of His incredible love for us, but it’s a special reminder of the kind of lengths He and those chosen by Him went to on our behalf. It’s the love of a courageous young virgin. Due to her devotion to and trust in God, she risked her life to bear His holy child despite not seeing all that was to come. It’s the love of a carpenter who put aside his pride and the shame of marrying a woman already pregnant to allow her to bring God’s presence into the world. It’s the love of wise Magi who travelled far from a distant place, leaving the comfort and elegance of their homes in order to bow their knee to an infant dwelling in humble circumstances. It’s the love of a group of Shepherd’s willing to leave their night watch, their livelihood, to worship at the feet of a tiny babe born in a lowly stable. It’s the love of a Father who willingly gave His own son so that we might see the error of our ways and receive forgiveness and grace. It’s the love of a Son who gave up His position, His rights, everything, in order to walk alongside us so that we could have His friendship and guidance forever. It’s the love of the Holy Spirit, the Presence of God to dwell in a broken temple of flesh in order to deliver to us our saviour.

The time and circumstances in which Jesus was born were tumultuous, the Roman rule was oppressive, the greed of kings murderous, the plight of God’s people seemingly forgotten …. but God. But Love. Love risked it all for you, for me, to know Him, that we may find peace and unity in Him. Love persevered as it nailed Jesus to the cross for the sake of our mistakes, anger, jealousy and self-interest.  Hate and prejudice didn’t nail Jesus to the cross, it was love. His love for us.

I pray that as we enter into the festivities and fun of Christmas, the games, the presents, the protruding bellies, we would stop and remember love. Amidst the many issues and uncertainties of life, there is always something, more importantly, Someone to be grateful for. As we meditate on His love for us and others over Christmas may it see us into the new year also. Maybe just maybe, then, we can change our worlds, impact those around us and show the world that despite our differences love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Merry Christmas All!

“An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. “

Luke 2: 9-11

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Misplaced Joy

MISPLACED JOY

Have you ever had one of those days, weeks, months or even years when you feel like you’ve misplaced joy? No matter how hard you try to find it, to conjure up a smile and ‘fake it ‘till you make it’, happy moments pop up now and again but joy never appears to transpire. Circumstances don’t always dictate this joy dilemma, people can face the worst of seasons and still manage to retain an inner peace and positive outlook. Others whose life bears the appearance of outward success find that contentment remains elusive. Even I, as a Christian who believes with every fibre of my being in the goodness and power of God, have had seasons of scrambling around in the dark wondering where I’ve mislaid it. Such times can leave us dumbfounded, confused and weak as our downward spiralling feelings begin to inform our decisions rather than our beliefs.

Scripture makes it clear that we have an enemy whose sole purpose it is to kill, steal and destroy (John 10 v 10). Nehemiah 8 v 10 informs us that, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” so it makes strategic sense that he would target our joy as part of his battle plan. So how do we counter his attack and take care not to leave ourselves vulnerable? How can we hold onto joy when dark clouds hover over the horizon. “In order to have joy, you have to sow joy” is a statement I heard recently during a preach. Easy right? Of course, we reap what we sow, it’s a foundational law of nature, I can’t plant an apple seed and expect to grow an oak tree. Yet despite this simple anecdote I couldn’t help but wonder why if it’s really that obvious, do so many of us regularly find ourselves lacking in real joy? Why is joy something we experience sporadically rather than consistently? More importantly, how do we actually sow joy? How is it that Paul states in his letter to the Philippians that he’s found the secret to being content in all circumstances? (Philippians 4 v 12) Paul could easily be forgiven for misplacing his joy given the many life-threatening experiences, beatings and imprisonments he encountered during his life. Yet despite all of these he closes his revelation in verse 13 with, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” So God is the source of Paul’s joy and strength, but what does enabling this fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5 v 22 – 23) to manifest in our lives actually look like practically on a day to day basis?

Interestingly I have been reading Dare To Lead, Brené Brown’s latest book which is a compilation of her findings from over 20 years of leadership research. Whilst detailing the differences between what she describes as armoured leadership and daring leadership, joy is listed as a key attribute of the latter. Here’s what she discovered,

“What is the one thing that people who can fully lean into joy have in common? Gratitude. They practice gratitude. It’s not an ‘attitude of gratitude’ – it’s an actual practice. They keep a journal, or make a note of what they’re grateful for on their phones, or share it with family members.” 

Dare To Lead, Brené Brown

According to Brené’s research, joy is manifested by gratefulness. As this truth leapt off the page and induced a ‘light-bulb’ moment, I was eager to look up all the verses I could pertaining to joy. As I circled back to Paul’s words in Philippians 4 and read the verses preceding his statement of contentment, I came face to face with one of the most well-known scriptures that I’ve no doubt read and indeed journaled many times over the years,

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4 v 4 – 8 (NIV, emphasis added by me)

Right there in the midst of Paul’s ancient encouragement to the Philippian church, he instructs them to always present all requests in every situation to God with thanksgiving. In other words to practise gratitude in our daily encounter and conversation with God.

Here are three quick practical tools we can take from Philippians 4 to help restore and maintain our joy:

  • Rejoice in the Lord – Or delight in the Lord. Whatever life throws at us we can always find something to be truly grateful for in Christ.
  • Give Thanks In Every Situation – Why? Because when we pray, speak, think, write and act from a place of thanksgiving our requests, thoughts, petitions, prayers and actions become focused on His goodness rather than our lack.
  • Think on Good Things – “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” Proverbs 23 v 7 (NKJV) As we train our thoughts to think on good things, they become our beliefs which in turn dictate our actions. 

Joy doesn’t negate difficult circumstances and it doesn’t require us to pretend that everything is ok when it’s not. Rather it forces our eyes heavenwards and makes way for the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds in Christ.

Each morning Rich and I have started to text each other at least 3 things that we are thankful for. Taking the time to stop and think about what we are grateful for each morning determines our position and perspective for the rest of the day. What will you do to practise joy today?

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Psalm 100 (NIV)

Radio Silence

RADIO SILENCE

Radio Silence –  “A period during which one hears nothing from a normally communicative person or group” (definition found via Google)

There’s an attack on our senses in modern western society with so many media vying for our attention 24/7. A world of organised chaos ready to sell us the latest products or opinion as they lure us in with well-executed campaigns. We don’t even have to leave our beds to be up to date with the latest trends and information, we just check our smartphones. It can be difficult to find quiet amidst the noise. This noise on the outside can often perpetuate a noise on the inside as we find it increasingly difficult to switch off our over-thinking, over-planning brains. We become quickly frustrated if we wait longer than a minute for anything, a coffee, wifi, phone signal, a text message. We import and export food and goods so that we can enjoy them all year round as it would be unthinkable to only have access to them once a year. Online shopping and next day delivery add to the message of instant gratification.

It’s easy to let our present culture dictate our view of God and our relationship with Him. We can rapidly become frustrated at an apparent lack of haste in His dealings with us. Have you ever been waiting for an answer to prayer or hoping for an open door only to feel like God seems to be transmitting nothing but radio silence? To counter our impatience we keep going, we build anyway, strive anyway. We create events and empires, products and programmes, always looking for the increase as we perpetually tick off our weekly and yearly to-do lists as we navigate our increasingly full calendars. We figure we haven’t heard anything contrary to what we’re doing so we’ll just keep going at an accelerating rate, according to whichever voice, trend or structure we are currently following. We struggle to carve out meaningful time to sit, listen, pray and worship outside of our Sunday experience as we assume that stillness and silence mean wasted time. We want drive-through healing, provision and relationship, “I’m just stopping by, but you know I love you right?” If we have to pray and wait for anything longer than a week, we give up the fight and get back to doing. Desperate to keep up with the fast-moving world around us we become frustrated at having to delay what we believe will satisfy us. If we could just do this, see that, be there or achieve that by yesterday we’d be happier, more fulfilled, full of a sense of purpose. We’re constantly looking for new ideas and innovation, never letting anything take root long enough to have a significant impact and see if it actually works. We think a year is a long time and if we haven’t seen our preferred results by then, everything must change.

I’m not an enemy of progress and I enjoy many of the benefits of the forward-thinking culture we live in. I’m also a big believer in getting on with things. We don’t want to swing too far in the opposite direction that we never do anything because we believe waiting for God to speak is passive. No, Psalm 37 v 23 remind us, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD:” This infers movement on our part. I’m also an advocate for necessary change which enables us to grow individually and corporately. Change for the right reasons is good. Change that benefits our lives, our communities and the world around us is needed. I just wonder if we pause long enough to check that we’re still tuned into the right wavelength so that our steps can be ordered correctly. So that the change we seek is built on well-thought-out, prepared plans that have been carefully considered and founded on the right principles. Change for change’s sake is exhausting.

What if the radio silence we felt was distancing us from God wasn’t actually silence at all? Rather somewhere along the journey, an interference with the signal occurred and He’s waiting for us to take the time to tune back into the correct channel. What if we are moving too fast to notice the white noise ringing all around us? What if God is transmitting but our spiritual antennae aren’t correctly positioned to receive what He’s putting out?

If we ‘do’ more than we pray, there’s an issue. In our jobs, we regularly connect with our boss to ensure that our work is on track. We have weekly meetings with colleagues to give updates and check workflow. We regularly converse with spouses, friends and family to make sure our schedules for the week allow space for meaningful encounters. How much more then do we need to connect with God to ensure that we’re correctly aligned with His vision and will? To check that the right things are important to us, that His desires are our desires. That we are loving Him and others correctly. That we’re not moving on until we’ve healed, not changing direction until He says so.

We need to make sure we’re defining culture and not chasing it, always struggling to catch up. We can utilise the good without succumbing to the bad. Sometimes it requires the courage to be misunderstood to make the right kind of changes. To pioneer, we have to do something never done before, not add on to what’s keeping us on the treadmill of misguided success. We need, and the world needs us to stop, tune in and check the transmission. Often. In fact, this more than anything else needs to be the top priority of our weekly agendas.

Despite the fact that we’ve never been more enlightened, had more tools and opportunities to succeed with plentiful available resources, figures show that anxiety and mental health issues are on the rise with not much difference between those inside and outside the Church. This is sad. Our perpetual want for more stops us from failing to see, feel, talk with, linger a while with an amazing Saviour who can lead us on our daily salvation journey.

I don’t know who needs to hear this today but if it resonates with you, please stop, talk to someone, tune in and drown out all external noise so that you can focus in on the one voice that matters.

Poison Or Fruit?

poison or fruit

“Words kill, words give life; 

They’re either poison or fruit – you choose.”

Proverbs 18 v 21 (The Message)

Powerful statement.

If I were to give you the choice between ingesting poison or fruit, you’d (hopefully) pick fruit. Rarely in our right minds do we set out to intentionally sabotage our own wellbeing. Yet, often, on a daily basis, we unknowingly allow the deathly taste of poison to creep into our hearts and minds.

As I’ve grown older I’ve realised the childish rhyme sang in innocent youth, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” is only partially true. Nasty names, labels, harsh words, negative reports, gossip and slander all act like poison to our soul. So much so that according to the above scripture, such words can kill. They kill dreams, passions, hopes and desires, destroy relationships and etch away at our identity and self-worth.

There is good news though. The right words can also breed life. In the film, “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”, there is a powerful scene in which Gandalf the White Wizard draws out an evil curse that has been placed on King Theoden. The curse, cast by the evil Lord Saruman, has turned the king into an incoherent, disengaged and weary shadow of his former self. In this particular scene, the king sits on his throne looking tired and dishevelled. His aptly named ill-advisor and co-conspirator to Saruman, Grima Wormtongue, crouches by his side and whispers into his ear before speaking on his behalf. Gandalf the great wizard approaches the throne, directs his staff towards Theoden and rebukes the evil Saruman out of the disillusioned king. As Gandalf speaks life and power back into the king he begins to gradually return to his original and correct self. A life which had once withered is now revitalised. Watch the scene here:

https://youtu.be/ckq-4Y6a87s

(Video found on YouTube to help illustrate this post, it is published by TheLordoftheRings Fans, any associated views not my own)

This scene paints a beautiful picture for me of the reality of  Proverbs 18 v 21. The whispers we allow into our soul are of utmost importance. Sometimes like the king, poison has been spoken to us or over us and it’s taken root in our hearts and manifested in our lives. It’s been allowed to help structure the belief we hold of ourselves and others and has tainted the way in which we see the world and our future in it. Maybe careless and ill-intended words have for too long invaded your inner space? Maybe you can still hear the disappointing tone, the angry word or the spiteful insult when you attempt to move forward? If this is true, I’m sorry. Maybe you’ve read magazines, newspapers, blogs and social media posts that have spread negative reports or unkind words. Perhaps gossip is ringing in your ears. Whatever misinformation springs to mind as you digest this post, there is hope, a way to combat the impact of this poison. Freedom is available. As Gandalf came to rescue King Theoden, so God came to rescue us. Some wounds may be years deep and seem impossible to repair, but God’s promise to us is that His word is, “living and active, and sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;” (Hebrews 4 v 12) His truth offers us a powerful antidote which is able to set us free from that which has held us captive. It can reach even the darkest caverns of our soul.

John tells us in scripture that Jesus is the Word of God (John 1 v 1) and Jesus Himself declares that He is, “The Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14 v 6). He is the greatest antidote to any poison trying to kidnap our beliefs which in turn dictate our actions. He is our Redeemer, our Saviour, our Healer. He is able to gently and lovingly draw out any poison residing within us.  The more we inject His good news into our hearts, the more healing can take place and His restoration begin to invigorate that which was once withered.  

Choice is also a powerful force and a beacon of hope offered in Proverbs 18 v 21. Daily we can choose life. Choose Jesus. Choose the good news. Choose grace. We must choose to profess it and to listen to it for the responsibility and the stakes are high, for ourselves and others. I once heard it said that our power to choose is like catching a ball. Many words and opinions will be thrown at us but we get to choose those we catch and those we let drop. So let’s catch truth, catch wisdom and drop poison.

As we start our week let’s assess what words we are listening to about ourselves, our careers, our bosses, spouses, family or circumstances. What are we allowing to be spoken over us by others or by the things that we watch, read and listen to? Are they poison or fruit? Do they inspire life or bring death? Do we profess faith or fear? Do we listen to hate or love, gossip or grace? We can’t change the past but we can create the future and choose what foundation to build it on. What will you choose?

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away”

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.

One Of ‘Those’ Days

ONE OF 'THOSE' DAYS! (1) copy

Do you ever have one of ‘those’ days? Or even one of ‘those’ weeks where everything all seems just a little too much? Often, it’s not major life-changing events that cause the frustration and anxiety that go along with such times. Instead, it’s a culmination of lots of small annoying occurrences that gradually pile up and cause niggling unwelcome emotions. These then snowball into an avalanche of feeling somewhat out of control.

Sometimes, things just don’t go according to plan and we feel like we’ve got out of bed on the wrong side. We wish we could hit replay, start the day all over again and give it another shot. We then get stuck in a deep well of self-pity and struggle to see an easy way out. Have you noticed how negative emotions and feeling sorry for oneself are strange social companions that love to hang around together? Not content with just each others company, they also invite memories of failure and sad stories along to the gathering. Then before we know it, we’re moping around, dragging our feet and ready to snap at anyone who dares smile at us. Like the last guest to leave a party who misses the ‘*yawn, oh is that the time?’ hint, these emotions linger beyond their welcome.

Well, I’ve had one of those weeks recently. Nothing terrible happened. In fact, many good things occurred, but I realised that it was the perceived lack of progress on my self-imposed to-do list that was the cause of my irritation and stress. Basically, I was increasingly frustrated that things didn’t seem to be going the way I had anticipated or envisioned. So, after engaging in some internal ‘woe is me’ dialogue, and whilst my fifteen-month-old daughter clung to my arm and nestled her snot covered face into my nice clean clothes for the umpteenth time, I finally prayed, ‘God help me at this moment!’ Suddenly, before my eyes, a huge bright vision appeared before me, a host of majestic angels with fiery red eyes, strong glimmering wings and sparkling silver Doc Martens descended through the ceiling. They were carrying a pile of completed laundry, some delicious galaxy caramel and a beautifully written blog post – jokes! Not really! Hey, I’m not saying it couldn’t happen, God is the God of the impossible after all! But, what actually happened was that I decided to stop moping around, realised that I couldn’t just snap out it, pushed aside my sense of entitlement and employed some practices that positioned me to engage with His peace.

In keeping with the current trend of list writing in some of my blog posts, here are some things I do/have done when things don’t seem to go my way in my every day, and it all becomes a little overwhelming:

  • Take Time Out – Whether that’s a literal removal of oneself from a situation, or just a deep breath and a moment in a different room, I take at least a second to close my eyes and be still. I say a prayer, inhale and try and zoom out of the downward spiral of pity to re-align my focus.
  • Accept It! – Most of the time, continued frustration occurs due to the fact that I keep dwelling on the to-do list rather than just accept that the goal posts have changed and so, therefore, I must adjust accordingly.
  • Choose Joy – It’s been said many times that we can’t choose our circumstances but we can choose how we respond. I can’t always control what’s happening but I can choose what I think about.
  • Encourage Myself – Proverbs 18 v 21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death”. I speak life into my present and future using the truth of God’s word which exists beyond the boundaries of my physical reality. A truth that is living and active (Hebrews 4 v 12) and refreshes my soul like the dawn of spring.
  • Talk To Someone Who Loves Me – Fortunately for me, this time around, my husband was around to notice my grumpy mood and help lift me out of it. Talking to someone who loves me enough to allow me a ‘moment’ but also pushes me out of it, is a perfect tonic for a stinky attitude.
  • Change My Perspective – Perspective changes everything! Looking at something from a different angle can completely change how you view it. My wise, (don’t tell him) and lovely husband, loves a bit of Mathematics, and once shared a perfectly simple example of this – a cone from directly underneath can look like just a flat circle, it’s only when you change your perspective that you see it’s actually a three-dimensional shape.
  • Do Something That Inspires Me  – This isn’t always easy to do in the moment, but at the first available opportunity, I find something that ‘fills up my bucket’ (as my friend Rach would say). Something that draws me forwards and brightens my eyes. It could be as simple as reading a book, listening to some music, having a conversation, watching a video or strolling in nature.
  • Live In The Moment – It is what it is, and what it is, is what it is. When things don’t go according to my plan, I just have to decide to be flexible and present rather than dwell on the past or lament a future that’s not yet happened. Why is it, that when we’re in a bad mood, we start to make believe fake conversations and events that all seem to go from bad to worse?! What a waste of good imagination and energy. Living in the moment helps me to think clearly, see it for what it is, accept it, problem solve and maybe even enjoy something in it!
  • Practice Patience And Perseverance – We all want more patience, but the tricky thing about that, is that it’s developed in situations that require it! The same is true of perseverance. Both require practice and both again require a choice to participate in them. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, so I pray and allow Him to take centre stage. Perseverance requires a courage and strength that His grace always bestows.

So there you have it. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, I mean, chocolate sometimes helps too! I’ll leave you with a beautiful scripture that has a far better list than mine and kind of sums it all up plus some. More importantly, it provides a perfect pathway to peace.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4 v 4 – 9

Serious Fomo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Funny Things Parents Do

6 Funny Things Parents Do 

Just for fun, 6 things parents do that you don’t imagine you will until you have kids! No judgement, we’re all in this together!

1.

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Until you’re a parent (unless you’ve worked with children) changing your voice to talk to a child is unusual. BUT lo and behold, as soon as that cute little bundle of joy (and poop) pops (if only) out it’s straight to the “baby voice”. There’s something about those cute little munchkins that makes us want to speak like we’ve emptied the helium balloons at the end of a party.

2.

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Suddenly life has turned into a musical (much to my secret pleasure), and everything just seems to run smoother when we sing things…. “this is the way we brush our hair, brush our hair, brush our hair…”

3.

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You finally get a night off together, you dress up or at least clean your teeth and brush your hair and there are zero nappies in sight. You’ve left the cherubs in good hands and a glass of wine has been ordered. Then it happens, one of you remembers a funny or not so funny anecdote from the day and the date code is broken! You both check your phones, no word, “we hope they’re ok?” Lol! I wouldn’t change a thing!

4.

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Guilty! Not only do we think every photo is worth posting even though it looks exactly the same as the previous twelve we’ve shared with everyone else, but after we breathe a sigh of relief that they’ve finally gone to bed, we open up the ‘cloud’ and re-watch everything all over again!

5.

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Yep, well…. it is what it is! Totally gross, until you have a child and then you totally get it! I can’t stand to see the snotty nose and if it’s inhibiting some free air flow for the poppet, well you do what you gotta do! Obviously, a tissue or wipe is preferable, but on the odd occasion, not available :/

6.

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In private or in public you just lift that bottom up and have a good nasal inhale! In no other circumstance unless you’re a dog is this acceptable! It does, however, bring relief when you’re in some kind of soft play, rhyme time or another social baby group when you realise the culprit of the stench is not your child (this time)!

Child’s Play

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Diving and climbing are the thing of the moment for our nearly 15-month-old Sienna. She’s so curious and adventurous and loves to explore her surroundings. I find she’s always pushing to reach the next thing, she’s not content with being on the ground, for example, she wants to be up high on the settee with the ‘big’ people. Fearless and unaware she then looks out for me or Rich and dives off the end, whether we are ready for it or not!

Also, this past week in swimming she has been diving off a floating mat and into the pool to retrieve a ball. She can’t swim on her own quite yet – she is only one! But assisted by us she dives/gets dunked under the water and glides (with help) towards the ball. I’m in awe of what she can do at such a young age, albeit assisted.

She has absolute trust in us as her parents that we will catch her, pick her up, give her a cuddle if it goes wrong, fix it and let her try again. Even if she stumbles whilst trying something it doesn’t deter her. In fact, she becomes more determined. Even if we tell her not to do something, like touch the bin (you can see this is a recurring issue!), she still re-attempts it! As a parent there’s a challenge for me, how do I encourage her curiosity but train some obedience? I don’t want her to grow up unafraid to try things, but I do want her to understand the importance of my instruction.

Watching her play with Rich is a joy, especially so when she runs at him full pelt and launches herself into his arms (as long as he’s paying attention lol!) She has absolute trust that her Daddy will be there to catch her. It’s no wonder that Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I see in Sienna, a faith in her father that I want to recapture for my heavenly Father. An urge and determination to run and leap into His arms with absolute faith that He will catch me. A determination to push to the next level knowing that whatever happens He will be there to help. If I’m slightly off balance, He will redirect me and I never need doubt his leading, even if I may not always like it. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who have faith.

Faith is such a powerful force, and as we have been entrusted to love Sienna it’s our responsibility to help stir this within her. I believe it’s more than just training her in the scriptures and surrounding her by loving people and taking her to Church. It’s helping her to experience it through life, by example, but also through daily practices that allow her to dare to venture into the unknown. It’s in creating a secure base from which she can explore whilst knowing that we are a consistent and constant rock to which she can easily return. As she grows older, the things instilled in the younger years will hopefully form the foundations of her character which will help to inform her decisions and intrinsic navigation system. I pray that faith is one of the loudest voices in her decision-making process. She will discover her own voice, gifts and desires and will need to pursue them unafraid to take risks or of failing.

The older I get and longer I’m a Christian, the more I realise I don’t actually know as much as I previously thought. The further I continue, the more I realise that faith is actually simple and it’s become complicated by religion, processes and procedures. Faith is exciting, it’s adventurous and it takes risks. It believes and trusts in a loving Father whose arms will catch us as we leap towards Him. Some things we are meant to develop in and others we are meant to protect, our faith is one of them. As Christians, it’s a strange dichotomy of faith to mature in Christ and yet remain childlike. So many times I think we confuse maturity with more rules and regulations, with religion, comfort and being sensible.

So how do we mature and steward things well and yet retain a childlike faith? A faith that still believes we can jump and our Father will catch us. A faith that pushes to see the mountains in our life move even with previous failed attempts. We are exhorted to seek wisdom though it cost all we have (Proverbs 4), but I think maybe we have misunderstood wisdom. There’s a beautiful passage of scripture that explains that wisdom is not so much just knowledge acquired or experienced but rather a person to be known.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written: 

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

1 Corinthians 1 v 18 – 25

Getting to know Christ though it cost all I have makes sense to me. He is wisdom personified. He stewards everything and everyone well yet remains in the mystery of faith. He trusts His Father, even unto death. The Jews had history and the Greeks had knowledge, yet they became stumbling blocks obstructing them from seeing and experiencing God in the flesh who was in their midst. History and knowledge should have been an advantage, signposts to the Saviour and yet I guess they lost the essence of wonder, the ability to be awed, to lean in and believe in something beyond their minds limit, to have faith.

Gifts and intellect aren’t the enemy and we will endeavour to encourage these in Sienna. However, above all else I will strive to show her Wisdom, to show her Jesus and try and teach her to put her trust and faith in Him. On the journey, I hope also to keep learning from her how I can do the same.

9 Reasons Why I Write A Blog

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9 Reasons Why I Write My Blog

  1. Discipline – I’m a person that thrives in some structure and discipline. I loved training at dance college, physically it was tough but I excelled in having regular daily and weekly routines in which to grow. Doing the weekly blog keeps me accountable and focused
  2. Obedience – Blogging isn’t something I ever had a strong desire to do and I hesitated in starting because I didn’t want people to think that I thought I had “something” to say. I have no axe to grind on the internet. However, when I became a mum to a newborn my availability to serve was limited and the experiences I had at the beginning were challenging. I thought, “What can I do to help another?” and that’s when I felt compelled to document some thoughts. A quote from Bill Hybels was the push I needed to start, “Your vision could be someone’s only hope.”
  3. Mindfulness – It forces me to think, to notice, to stop and to be present. I have to actively engage in life with myself, family, friends and others, as well as my relationship with God. I have to listen and wait and take time to process things and this is a good pursuit.
  4. Articulation – Thoughts whizz around my head and can float around for a long time without landing. Writing them down helps me to better articulate those thoughts and sharing them with others helps to refine my communication.
  5. Growth – Writing offers me the opportunity to grow and to learn as I try and practise this skill. It also helps me to reflect on my experiences in a way that helps to solidify things learnt from life and my encounters with God and others.
  6. Creativity – I have always enjoyed and engaged in art in various forms. The blog allows me to explore and improve in the art of writing and have another creative outlet.
  7. Inspiration – It encourages me to look differently at things and to have an open heart and mind. To find inspiration in my every day and to embrace the wonder in the normal as well as the exceptional.
  8. Enjoyment! – Quite simply, I enjoy it. Sometimes, that’s a good enough reason to do something positive. It fills up my bucket! I’ve penned handwritten journals for a long time and the blog in some ways is an extension of that.
  9. Hope – In the early months of motherhood I searched online for answers and encouragement to some of the issues I was facing. My prayer is that some of the content could offer hope to another who may find themselves in a similar situation, searching for a light at the end of their tunnel.