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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Faith Is For Life Not Just For Christmas

FAITH IS FOR LIFE

The purpose of starting this blog was, to be honest about my own faith journey and to hopefully encourage; bring courage to another. What better way to do that than with personal testimony. Here are three reminders that have helped to keep faith alive for me.

Start With Faith

We intentionally gave Sienna the second name of Faith because we wanted it to be a defining characteristic of who she is and how she approaches life. Faith is the substance of things not yet seen but hoped for (Hebrews 11 v 1) and she is the tangible gorgeous fleshy substance of renewed faith in God after a tricky start in the pursuit of having children.

You can understand why Jesus commends childlike faith because a child growing up in a healthy environment of love should have an abundance of faith. Faith in their parents and carers to attend to their needs, faith that the chair/tree/settee they’re about to climb will sustain them, faith that the person on the other side of the ledge they’re about to jump off will catch them and faith that they’ll just bounce off the floor just in case they don’t! Granted – sometimes it’s misplaced. Nevertheless, it’s not a chore for children to believe. Children forgive and forget quickly and hope easily given the chance to. They start with faith.

Sienna was born with a small hole in her heart which can be fairly common and unsurprising given our family history. As I drove to the hospital this week for her yearly check to see if it had closed up I prayed for her once again. My prayer went something along the lines of, “Help me God with my unbelief, I know you can heal but I don’t know if you will. Despite my little faith do this for her God because I want to tell her of your faithfulness, the reason behind her name. I want her to have a personal testimony right from the start”

After a slight stress inducing 10 or so minutes of trying to get her to sit still so that a complete stranger could prod her chest with an ultrasound, food won and we managed to keep her stationary just long enough to have the heart scan. Many times I’ve been to that hospital over the past few years with both good and bad outcomes. It was such a relief to hear that all of the snack bribery was worth it as the doctor informed us that the hole had closed up. I couldn’t help but feel a little emotional as I rang Rich to tell him the news. Obviously, because her heart has healed but also because I can’t wait to tell her the story of God’s faithfulness when she’s old enough to understand. She can begin her personal journey with God full of faith in the knowledge that He hears and answers our prayers. Inevitably she will face challenges but if her foundation is faith, how she attacks them and gets through them will be infinitely better.

She can start with faith because we started with faith when we named her and even before that when we hoped for her before her conception.

Step Out In Faith

Currently Rich is the sole earner of our household as I look after Sienna full-time. I recently received a bill asking for tax owed due to calculations made based on our charitable giving donated over the past year. Mr tax man made the fair assumption that because the gift aid for these donations was in my name I am required to pay tax on it. Admittedly this was a mistake on my part and I had simply forgotten/not been aware that we needed to change the gift aid into Rich’s name as the current sole earner of the household. On ringing to discuss our predicament I was told that as it was already in the system absolutely nothing could be done to reallocate the contributions to Rich’s account and even though I haven’t earned any money I was still expected to pay a bill that shouldn’t exist. Not satisfied and requiring some grace for my error I appealed this decision via a letter. I explained the situation and prayed that God would cause us to have favour. This week I received a letter to say that the bill had been cancelled! Something I was told was not even a possibility. (I should point out I have nothing against the tax people, they were just doing their job)

Faith requires us to act in accordance with our beliefs and step out in the direction of our prayers.

Stay In Faith

I have so many testimonies like the above story, what I call kisses from heaven, as I’ve placed my trust over and over again in God. I’ve seen more provision than not and I’m still here and still going as a testament to it. Had we given up on faith Sienna wouldn’t be here today. Staying in faith isn’t always easy and convenient, especially when life throws some punches but it’s so worth it. Faith for tomorrow sustains your today. Faith is the key to unlocking the future. Our beliefs and prayers have the ability to create, to speak forth life, to give purpose and renew hope as we align our hearts with His word and boldly declare His promises. If we don’t make room for faith, life happens to us rather than flows through us.

Remaining in Him and consistently renewing and investing our hope in Him bears eternal consequences beyond ourselves. As we stay in faith we allow others to start in faith as they see His hand at work in our lives.

So I pray we start with faith, step out in faith and stay in faith.

 

Why Are We Waiting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 16 v 26

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

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

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

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

Psalm 37 v 4

 

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Will The Real Slim Me Please Stand Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 15 v 5 – 8 NIV

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

Fatherhood – Embracing The Tension

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REPOST in honour of Father’s Day 

Rich and I have been married for 7 years, nearly 8, but have been together a decade in total at this point! We met when we were both still students and have laughed, lived, loved and cried together ever since. Every year is sweeter with my best friend. Marriage takes work and I’m blessed to work hard alongside him. He’s generous, kind and full of integrity. Don’t be fooled by his quiet demeanour, he has a witty sense of humour and works harder than anyone I’ve known. He has wisdom and discernment beyond his years, and a huge random tank of knowledge stored in that beautiful head. There’s so much I could say but at the risk of gushing and causing you to reach for the sick bucket, I’ll stop there. 

I asked him to write a blog on his perspective of parenthood, here’s what he had to say…

Fatherhood – Embracing the Tension

When Anna asked me to write a blog entry for her, I didn’t really know where to start.
There are lots of things that I could write about. I could write about a husband’s perspective on the whole birth process. Maybe I could talk about the initial days of fatherhood and some of the preconceptions I had. I could maybe give some pithy advice as to how to juggle life as a Dad and as the sole breadwinner. But somehow, I feel that all of the above could be written about by far more experienced, and eloquent people than myself.

Becoming a Dad has been the best thing that has happened to me, but also the most
challenging. It is both amazing and terrifying to think this little person is your child, your responsibility, your legacy. That you have the ability to both love her and also fail her. Going to work is bittersweet. I travel quite a lot with work, which always used to be fun and exciting. It now can seem as though I’m missing out when I’m away. We often can’t wait to get her to sleep in the evening, especially after a busy day but as soon as she’s in bed, we’re talking about her, missing her a bit if truth be told. Not enough to wake her up though! I’ve basically realised that being a Dad isn’t simple, it’s actually often paradoxical with the right thing being held in tension between two seemingly conflicting positions. I’m learning to embrace the tension.

Here are a few tensions I’m currently trying to embrace:

I’m expected to lead but I don’t know where we’re going

When I think of my Dad, I always felt like he knew exactly what was going on and what to do in any given situation. I’m sure he didn’t. He was probably doing exactly what I am currently, and making it up as he went along. As men, I feel sometimes we feel the pressure to have it all together and know which way we’re going. The thing is, most of us if we’re honest probably don’t know where on earth we’re going, let alone what we’re going to be doing there when we get there. It’s this self-imposed pressure that I think can cause a sense of inadequacy and even depression. The fact of the matter is, no one knows what is going on. If someone tells you they do, don’t believe them. We don’t get the full roadmap, we have light enough for the next step, no more, no less. I’ve come to realise that when it comes to my family I don’t actually have to know everything and have it all together. I don’t have to lead my family through a specific route that I’ve mapped out. I just have to show them how to take the next step. I have to model what it is to walk in faith, to walk in humility. I lead my family when I model excellence and a healthy work ethic. I lead my family when I am kind and compassionate in a situation that would often warrant a different response. I lead my family when I am consistent, loyal and faithful. I lead my family when I say sorry and show vulnerability. It turns out I can lead even when I don’t know the way by modelling how to take the next step with integrity, even if I don’t know the final destination.

I’m not 20 any more but I’m also not 80

It’s true. When I look back at what I used to look like, it’s as though a complete stranger is
looking back at me. I was a lot thinner, healthier and had way more energy. I have realised that actually, I am not immortal. I need to look after myself and my body so I’m still around and useful when I’m older. I’m by no means a health fanatic, but I have come to realise that I cannot expect to eat what I used to, drink whatever I want and do no exercise without repercussions. People never think of their health until they lose it. I don’t want to be a 40-year-old dad with an 80-year-olds body. I’m trying to look after myself better these days, understanding that I’m not 20 any more but I shouldn’t feel like I’m 80 either. I can’t do what I want any more and it have no repercussions. It’s early days but hopefully Sienna and Anna will thank me for it long term.

I can’t be there all the time but I can be fully present when I am there

This one is really important and so hard to do. As a dad, or the working parent, you can find yourself constantly feeling guilty. You feel guilty for going home early to see your child before they go to bed. You also feel guilty working late knowing your wife or other half is taking the full hit back at home. You know you need to go to work and put in a full day there, but you also need to be a dad/parent and help out when you’re home. I’ve come to realise that it takes discipline and perspective to navigate. Does that email need to be replied to this second? Can that call wait until tomorrow? Similarly, will missing a bath time once in a while ruin my daddy-daughter bond? Can Anna put her to bed once or twice without me being there? The answer is usually yes to all of the above. The real issue isn’t how much time you spend at a certain place, it’s being fully there. If work had 100% of your focus between the hours of 9-5 you wouldn’t need to take work home with you. And if your family had 100% of your focus when you’re with them, they wouldn’t feel like they’re missing out on you either. We lead full lives, we work jobs to pay bills. We work out this journey pragmatically, we have to. The goal is not to spend every waking moment with my family, it’s to let them know that wherever I am, I’m doing my utmost to do my job well so I can come back to them with no unfinished business. They are my priority, wherever I find myself and whatever responsibility I have to fulfil. I need to work in a way that honours my boss and prioritises my family.

It’s impossible to always be in a good mood, but I ‘m consistent with my countenance

I have made the decision, that I always want Sienna to know that I’m pleased to see her,
regardless of what kind of day I’m having, and regardless of how much of a pain she’s been. That’s a choice, it’s a decision that I’ve made, that she will always know that her Dad is pleased to see her. It’s important to me because that’s how I want her to view her Heavenly Father. I’m not always in a great mood. I could have had an awful day but I have disciplined myself to always smile at my daughter whenever I see her. It’s a small thing, she probably doesn’t even notice it, but I need to remind myself that it’s how God is with us. He looks on us and smiles. I can’t always be in a good mood, but I have committed myself to be consistent with my countenance towards Sienna. She needs to know that she can always come to me, no matter what, and she is welcome. She needs to know that her Dad is, and always will be, pleased to see her.

Written by Rich Harris

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.

Love Thy Neighbour

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London is a beautiful City full of history and innovation that sees rapid growth and change and has the obvious hustle and bustle of a Capital City. It’s bursting at the seams with people and is often a place in which many live but don’t necessarily dwell long term. There are lots of rentals and students and people passing through for a season. We ourselves have been here for only 7 years and have moved 4 times during that period due to rental contracts and differing jobs. Having a community in a busy and large City, with such a migrating population can be tough, and for us, we are lucky to have found one through Church. However, we don’t all live in close proximity to one another, and so some of the places where we’ve lived have provided more of a base rather than a home.

Last year was a busy year full of lots of change for us. We welcomed our first child, transitioned into new roles and found ourselves once again in a different area of London. This time, however, we had the opportunity to purchase a house as we were blessed with some inheritance which we used as a deposit. I think there’s a saying in property that reads along the lines of, “buy the worst house on the best street”, that way you will add value to your home in a sort after area and it’s still affordable to buy. The London housing market is in a league of its own and as we looked for a property it soon became apparent that our money wouldn’t stretch as far as we’d thought. No matter, we were still fortunate enough to own our own home, it just turned out that it was the worst house on not the best street! Regardless, we have a nice little two-bed end of terrace with an amazing 60-foot garden. It wasn’t left in the finest of conditions from its previous owner and so it was what you’d have called a ‘fixer-upper’. Nevertheless, whilst we haven’t viewed this as our forever home, it is a good start on the property ladder and a place to establish our little family together. A home that we can raise our young child in and be hospitable with, a safe haven to come back to and the start of building a legacy for Sienna.

Recently I was challenged at Church as our pastor addressed the issues and growing concern surrounding young people in our City and the increased levels of violence amongst them. As a Church, we want to be part of a long-term solution. This is, after all, our City. In his message, he said something along the lines of, “Don’t pray to God for something if you’re not prepared to be part of the answer.” Inspired by this but not knowing where to start, I consciously made a decision to pray not only for our City and Country but also for my street, my neighbourhood and my community. I felt challenged to be present in this community for as long as we live here and not just see it as a transitional place. I realise that it’s not yet the most sought after area, but the majority of people that live here are normal, hard-working every day decent folks. I prayed my prayer and got on with my day.

Then something happened which made me want to rescind my previous thoughts, challenge my prayer and make plans to leave the neighbourhood as soon as possible. Someone walked into our house in the middle of the day, assuming everyone was out and took the easiest things they could grab in an instant. On realising someone was upstairs they made a quick exit. We only realised we had been burgled when we noticed our visiting family’s car was gone from outside! They’d taken the keys!

As if it wasn’t enough that someone had broken into our private property, the very next day, I noticed something across the street that appeared suspicious. With a heightened sense of awareness, and despite feeling nervous as I got our daughter ready for bed, I called the Police. The short version is they responded quickly and efficiently and so the criminals were caught and arrested. In that moment I had a choice, do I still love my community although it’s hard or do I close the curtains, let the world pass by and hope for the best as I plan my departure? I thought if I really want to pray for my City and see a change it must start with me. As the title of Bob Goff’s book states, “Love does!” Love does even when it’s uncomfortable and love loves even the bits that we don’t like as much. If I don’t care about my street and if I don’t take action how can I expect anyone else too? It’s easy to point fingers or step back but if this is now my community, it’s my responsibility.  Getting involved in things at arm’s length not having to get my hands dirty feels better, but there are needs right on my doorstep.

The enemy would have us stunted from moving forward because we feel intimidated or fearful. However, as my dear friend, Ope always says, “the devil is a liar!” It’s true he comes to kill, steal and destroy but what’s also true is that Jesus is, “..above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 1 v 21. He has the final say, He is our provider, protector, redeemer, saviour, strength, peace and victor – AND the list goes on. The devil has nothing on Jesus. It’s an uneven match.

We were blessed to buy this house and therefore blessed to be in this area and so we must not let those who wish to destroy our blessings have the last say. There are so many exhortations in scripture that remind us of the goodness of God and the protection we have as his people. I need to believe that whilst we are here our prayers and our actions can make this a better place for not only ourselves but also our neighbours. My neighbours need to know a loving and very real God who is able to reach down and infiltrate their lives and situations. This starts with me; with me showing them the evidence, showing them His favour and the power of prayer. This means not being afraid to do the right thing. Of course, it’s easier to type than to action but if ministry truly is life, then this is my life and therefore this is my ministry and our neighbourhood is our responsibility.

A few quick things I have learnt or been reminded of this week:

  • Light casts out darkness – ALWAYS! “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1 v 5
  • God is on my side, He’s my protector  – Psalm 91
  • Jesus taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as in Heaven,” so He’s invested in the outcome – Matthew 6 v 9 – 13
  • Ministry is life – Romans 12
  • God loves my neighbours and so should I – Mark 12 v 30 – 31
  • Jesus has all authority Matthew 28 v 18 and He gives us authority – “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” Luke 10 v 19
  • Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to attack – put on your armour – Ephesians 6 v 10 – 18

Heart’s Intent

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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