No-Man’s Land

Spring is here!

There’s a place I remember from childhood that is approximately a metre squared and can be found at the end of two adjoining roads. Amongst friends we used to refer to this small section of real estate as ‘no-man’s land’. Whilst it lay between two street signs it belonged to neither one. If we straddled our legs from one side to the other we would proudly declare that finally, we could be in two places at once. However, being neither fully in one street or the other turned out to be more novel than practical as having one foot in both streets allowed the opportunity to do little other than stand still.

Perhaps the absence of regular blog posts over recent months can be accredited to the navigation of our own ‘no-mans land’. We’ve made some key decisions as a family over the past year that have propelled us into a transition period. Reaching an ambiguous crossroads we have had to redefine, rethink and revaluate what’s important to us as we move forward. A process which takes time and is easier to type than do.

It’s an odd feeling to find yourself in life’s ‘no-man’s land’. To a soldier, the term ‘no-man’s land’ refers to a piece of unoccupied territory that few dare to enter for fear of the uncertainty that lies within. Stepping out in faith often sounds more glamorous and adventurous in concept than it actually turns out to be when walked out, and almost always leads to some kind of ‘no-man’s land’. To venture into unchartered territory is daunting and inconvenient and sometimes lonely. To leave the comfort and perceived safety of the known takes courage, and not everyone will understand the reasons for your venture, or be willing to come with you. As is often the case when daring to step into the unknown, our own in-between season came with neither clear direction nor defined timeline. Living in a culture that is constantly bombarded with information and glorifies busyness, it can be disarming to find yourself temporarily at a standstill whilst in search for clear direction.

What I’ve discovered is that ‘no-man’s land’ can be an uncomfortable place to inhabit. Yet, as uncomfortable as it may be, I believe it is necessary to enter if we wish to make any type of change for the better of ourselves or others. As disruptive as it may be, it can be significant, as lonely as it may feel at times, it can be illuminating. On the other side of ‘no-man’s land’ lies new territory to be taken and new freedom to be attained. If we commit to the process of allowing ourselves to temporarily belong to nowhere, we can find the freedom to choose where it is we wish to eventually settle.

We’ve been navigating this area for a while now, and are hopefully nearing the end of this particular journey through the unknown. There have been lots of things learnt, some ideas challenged, a few things left behind, and much gained. At times it’s been exciting and full of hope and at others, it’s been confusing and overwhelming. The intricate details of our expedition are personal to us and no doubt mostly irrelevant to you but there are some anchors that have kept me going. The following nuggets have lifted my head and helped me to travel through the void rather than get lost in it.

  • Find joy, it brings strength. Amongst change and uncertainty, it can be difficult to find joy and easy to see chaos. It requires practice. Joy is a plumb line and perspective giver. I try and think of three things daily that I’m grateful for. This keeps my eyes up, my focus forward and my heart grateful. Each day is a gift and I’m learning to treat it as such. See my previous post written about joy here.

         “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8 v 10)

  • Deal with what you know and don’t dwell on what you don’t. Overthinking and over-talking allow worries to fester. Worry blocks faith and feeds anxiety.  Plan for what you know and have faith for what you don’t. 

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What        shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6 v 31 – 33)

  • Take one bite at a time. An ancient African proverb asks, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite a time.” When our only focus is the large elephant ahead of us, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and want to walk away. Any change, of lasting significance, has to be dealt with one small bitesize piece at a time. Jesus taught us to ask for daily bread because He knows better than we know ourselves. Tackle ‘no-man’s land’ one bite and one day at a time.

“Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6 v 11)

  • Trust is a doing word. Trust isn’t passive, it requires courage and practice. When all else is swirling in the storm, there is one in Whom our trust will never be misplaced.

LORD Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.” (Psalm 84 v 12)

  • Sometimes you have to lose to gain. Not a weight loss slogan, although it could be. Transition requires moving from one thing to another which often means leaving something or even someone behind. Fear of letting go is possibly one of the greatest inhibitors to change but a closed hand is not able to receive a new gift. It’s not always easy and it shouldn’t be taken lightly, but with wisdom and care shedding some things can be the greatest liberator.

 

 

365 Days Later

365 days later

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

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

Anna:

I’m Stronger Than I Think – Perseverance Pays Off

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

I Love Sleep – Discipline Reaps Rewards

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

Just Call Me Bendy Barbie – Flexibility Is Key

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

Rich:

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

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

Children Love Easily And Forgive Quickly

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

“Important” Things Aren’t Really That Important

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

365 days later sienna

 

The Rose

the rose pink

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

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

“When the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long

And you think that love is only

For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed

That with the sun’s love

In the spring

Becomes the rose”

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

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

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

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

Bankrupt; spent, empty, lacking, void.

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

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

“…God is Love.”

1 John 4 v 8

Why Mums Make Great Leaders II

why mums make great leaders 2

In the midst of the debate over equal pay for women, and varied opinions on the recent news that New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is pregnant, it is obvious the need to continue to reaffirm why mums and even women, in general, make great leaders. It is astounding to me that the potential and value of women is still questioned in many places around the world in 2018. However, that’s a larger topic to be explored another time.  

Continuing on from my previous post (see here), here are a few more attributes of leadership that I believe can be enhanced in motherhood…

3. Adaptability/flexibility

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”

John C Maxwell

When I gave birth to Sienna, it was also the birth of a mother; me. Parenthood isn’t something you arrive at with experience and qualifications. Even those that have worked with babies, children and young people have to navigate the intertwining complexities of loving, teaching and providing for a small human who has their own personality, will and needs.

If we are to be the best we can be, adaptability and flexibility are key as we learn to be parents to an ever-growing child in an ever-changing environment.

For example, as soon as you feel like you’ve nailed some sort of routine with your baby, their nap changes! Or just when you feel like you’ve built a positive relationship with your child, puberty hits and suddenly there’s a whole new storm to navigate.

As parents and leaders we have to be ready and able to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances that we find ourselves in, otherwise, we are susceptible to becoming overwhelmed, ignorant or insignificant.  

4. Perseverance

To persevere is a choice. For me giving up on my child is not an option. As a mother and a parent, I realise that the buck stops with me. No-one else is going to care for Sienna as much as Rich and I do. In spite of sleep deprivation, flu or anything else for that matter, I still get up in the middle of the night to attend to her needs. When your toddler is having a tantrum or your teenager a strop you still have to persevere in love, patience and discipline.

The perseverance built in motherhood can help re-ignite the tenacity to not give up in other areas of your life also. For me, I want to be someone that inspires Sienna and encourages her to be all that she can be, to go further than I have gone and do more than I have done. If I don’t demonstrate perseverance, how can I expect from her what I’m not willing to give myself? It’s a matter of integrity.

Leadership that lasts the distance requires perseverance. No tree springs up and bears fruit overnight. Likewise no team, business or pursuit fulfils its potential in an instant. Like a child, all these need continuous support, investment and nourishment in order to bear fruit.

5. Discipline

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” Vincent Van Gogh

It can be easy to feel like small tasks lack significance when faced with them on a day to day basis. Yet nothing of great worth ever just happened. Reaching long-term goals requires daily discipline.

Motherhood helps to reinforce or implement discipline and understand the consequences of a lack of it. For example, every day I have to wash and sterilise Sienna’s bottles, an often boring and mundane task. If they aren’t sterilised, however, there is an increased risk that bacteria will breed and have the potential to make her ill.

Consistency can be hard when it comes to disciplining a child. However, the risk of a lack of consistency in this area can have long-term negative consequences. For me, as a parent, it is important that I maintain discipline and consistency in the values that I wish to pass onto my daughter.

As a leader discipline is a key to long-term success and credibility. Integrity is built upon discipline; a consistency of good character.

There you have it, three more reasons why I believe that mums can make great leaders. I’d love to know your thoughts and even experiences in relation to this topic. Will you join the conversation? 

 

 

Why Mums Make Great Leaders

why mums make great leaders

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

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

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

1. Influence

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

John C. Maxwell

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

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

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

Proverbs 22 v 6 NIV

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

2 Timothy 1 v 5 NIV

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

2. Sacrifice

John 15 v 13 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

I Corinthians 13 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued…

Join the conversation – what do you think?

Happy New Year!

 

 

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

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

2018…. let’s go!

Good Value This Christmas

good value this christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 4 v 19

“We love because He first loved us.”

Fruit Is Best Enjoyed In Season

strawberry

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

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

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

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

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

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