You Do You Boo

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There’s something incredibly satisfying about seeing a garden start to bloom, especially when it started out as a wasteland. Unfortunately, the previous owners of our house hadn’t taken much interest in anything beyond the back door and so what we inherited was their personal dumping ground. I’ve admitted before, I’m not the avid gardener in the family, but I am slowly becoming more interested and most definitely enjoying the fruit of Rich’s hard labour (cheers hubby).

Each plant in the garden is unique and beautiful in its own way and serves a purpose within the greater ecosystem. Some have heavenly scents, others provide shelter for wildlife, some provide pleasure as they flourish in bright and beautiful colours. All require care and planting and all have similar fundamental properties important for their growth. All are established in the same soil in our backyard and must form a solid root system to remain healthy as they grow upwards towards the sun. Each element of nature in the garden is connected and compliments the overall masterpiece (you’re welcome Rich – in faith ;)) that is our garden. The beauty and purpose of one flower doesn’t subtract from the beauty and purpose of another, but rather it adds to the overall picture and essence of the landscape.

There’s something about the snapshot of our garden that speaks to me about life as a Christian. We also require planting and care to grow, including the occasional pruning (ouch). We have many similarities and our fundamental needs as people are the same. Together as His church, we should create a magnificent landscape alluding to the wonder of God. As individuals we are spectacularly unique and yet can unite together to contribute to the common goal of His will. The essence of our Creator is reflected in many finite beings who each have different desires, gifts, preferences and purposes, like the essence of the gardener is reflected in the variety of his masterpiece.

When we say yes to God and grow as Christians – the aim is not to become clones of one other but to be released into the freedom of who we were always destined to be. We’re inextricably linked by the Source of our creation, who provides our planting and nourishment. Whilst we have similarities, individually we have permission to bring our unique beauty to the garden of life. All of us are designed to glorify the creator and together unified all add to the form and strength of His garden. Too often it’s easy to misinterpret salvation and belonging as changing to become carbon copies of one another. God is the one that connects and aligns, not a sterotype or set of behaviours. He unites us with some non-negotiable truths, such as love, grace, mercy, faith and of course Jesus to name but a few. Our commission is the same, however, if we’re not careful we turn unimportant man-made beliefs into obligations under the guise of faith and in doing so try to squeeze people into a mould they were never created to fit.

When you envisage the garden, each plant can only be what it was created to be, nothing more, nothing less, its purpose is set from the beginning. The rose bush fails at producing apples, whilst the lilly will never be evergreen, but that doesn’t make them lacking, it makes them different. To expect them to bloom in ways other than what they were created to do is a course set for failure and misses the opportunity to cultivate the personal beauty within each of them.

Without negative intent, I think at times we Christians, unknowingly guide people into discipleship with a slightly skewed understanding of what it is. The goal of discipleship is not to produce mini ‘each-others’ that all think the same, speak the same and act the same, but rather to point others continually to the ever careful and faithful Gardener. In Him, we find true purpose, kind pruning and continued sustenance. Guided by Him, we find our true place in His garden and learn to love our unique expression of Him whilst still remaining planted in the greater landscape.

We must also guard against comparison amongst ourselves as we step back to view the greater perspective offered by eternity and our relationship with Him. This allows us to dig deep into what it is He has for us to fulfill in this ministry, privilege and opportunity called life. There isn’t only one way to serve, to minister and to be. We all have an important part to play in making the Earth a better place and Heaven more full. 1 Corinthians 12 puts it another way as it likens us as Christians; Christ’s body to a human body made up of different parts, different in function, capacity and size but every part important to the overall purpose.

Let us all celebrate our differences, encourage our unique qualities and embrace each other’s gifts so that we may flourish in our respective patches of the garden. Let us get to know the Gardener who provides all that we need as we grow alongside and compliment one another. Planted in the same ground, watered by the same Source but flourishing in our unique ways. He will guide us into Truth so that we are always growing towards the Son.

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

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

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?

9 Reasons Why I Write A Blog

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9 Reasons Why I Write My Blog

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

Praise Junkie

PRAISE JUNKIE

When you’re a performer, the applause and reaction of an audience is something that you measure to gauge the success of your presentation. This is not a narcissistic thing, it’s natural to want to please the people for which you’ve worked hard to entertain or engage. It’s a phenomenon mimicked in many areas of life, the want or need to please others, to be liked or valued and gain recognition for the work we have done. A child looks for praise from their parents, an employee from a boss, a leader from their followers and vice versa.

I’m fascinated by John the Baptist. Seemingly an outcast in society, yet clearly influential with active disciples and a flourishing ministry. A man sent to prepare the way for another, to honour another above himself. A man content when his disciples left him to follow Jesus, in fact, that was what he aimed for. He didn’t seek the praise of others but rather pointed them to the One Who is to be praised. A man so in tune with God that He recognised the Son standing in front of Him when many other supposedly religious leaders didn’t. When confronted with the migration of his disciples to Jesus, he selflessly said, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3 v 30). It’s so easy to read the scriptures and forget the weight of what’s being said. I think we’d probably all like to think that we would have the same response as John in this instance. But I wonder what would happen if all of our followers, various platforms, ministries, careers or accolades that we’d worked so hard to build were suddenly redirected elsewhere, would we truly be ok with that? If we faded into the background and never received another word of encouragement, thanks, or acknowledgement for our hard work, would we still be content? If we could never insta story our achievements or show the world our accomplishments would they still be worthwhile?

There are many speeches and social media accounts that tell wonderful tales of how Jesus is first in our lives and everything done or gained is all because of Him. Yet I wonder, when we get to heaven, what He will actually put His name to and what will have “us” written all over it.

In The Message version of John 1 v 6 – 8, it states John the Baptist’s sole purpose for walking this earth,

“There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.”

I’m challenged to ponder if I’m content learning to play “second fiddle” (Romans 12 v 10 The Message). Does the life I lead really point fully to Jesus or the gifts He’s given me? Are they two different things? Surely if I’m winning, He’s winning? If I’m successful, He’s successful. I think maybe there’s a fine line between me looking good and Him looking good. I definitely believe He wants us to prosper and bring glory to His name as we live surrendered to Him and allow His abundant provision of grace and healing, mercy and love to overwhelm our lives. But I wonder how often we ask for His guidance, His direction, His Presence before we work hard. I wonder how often we see His miracles amongst our hard work and sacrifice. I wonder what bears His name and what bears ours in the mix of this chaos called life. At each juncture which signposts lead to Him and which me?

The beauty of saying yes to Jesus is that, despite ourselves, there’s always an opportunity to grow. He didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it (John 3 v 17), and so we have chance upon chance to re-align our focus and vision and reposition ourselves correctly in Him. He definitely wants us to be more, to do more and to have more but there’s a greater purpose to all of it. God is a good Father and He delights in lavishing us with His goodness, just because He loves us. However, when we truly experience the beauty of His grace and the wonder of His miracles we naturally become aware of our position in Him, but not in a way that forces us to submit but rather to gladly humble ourselves.

The praises of one another are fleeting, and whilst I believe in encouragement as a Godly gift to one another, everything we do should all be to His glory. If I am competent by my own means through hard work, training and sacrifice, this is a good thing, yet there is still more to do to allow Him to bring heaven to earth, as He taught us to pray.  

Another who gave His life to point to the goodness of God the Father, is Jesus. It’s the great mystery, He Himself is God and yet gave up His rights as God to become a man that He may show us the heart of the Father. How we could live and walk with Him and point others to His goodness. A life given for humanity.

Will my life point to a good Father? Will it show His glory and not my own as I learn to continually walk in His Presence and see His miracles unfold before me to be shown to a world desperately in need of some supernatural intervention? I hope so.

Help me, help us, God, to chase only one thing, You.

“I saw the sun begin to dim

And felt that winter wind

Blow cold

A man learns who is there for him

When the glitter fades and the walls won’t hold

‘Cause from then, rubble

One remains

Can only be what’s true

If all was lost

Is more I gain

‘Cause it led me back

To you

From now on

These eyes will not be blinded by the lights

From now on

What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight

Tonight

Let this promise in me start

Like an anthem in my heart

From now on

From now on

I drank champagne with kings and queens

The politicians praised my name

But those are someone else’s dreams

The pitfalls of the man I became

For years and years

I chased their cheers

The crazy speed of always needing more

But when I stop

And see you here

I remember who all this was for”

Songwriters: Justin Paul / Benj Pasek For “The Greatest Showman”

From Now On lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Fox Music, Inc

 

 

 

Busy Is Not A Badge Of Honour

Busy Is Not A Badge of Honour

It seems like busy is a badge of honour we wear with pride these days. “How’s your week been?” “Busy” “How’s work?” “Busy” “How’s life?” “Good, busy, but that’s a good thing right?” I know I’ve said it before and no doubt meant it.

Being a parent, in some ways, brings a new level of busy into life with increased to-do lists. However, it’s also afforded me the ability to streamline, as I now weigh the importance of what I give my time to against caring for another human, Sienna.

I’ve realised busy doesn’t make us good or better, and it doesn’t always translate into significance, although it can give a false sense of purpose as we exert ourselves on a never-ending treadmill. There are definitely times and seasons that require more of us and these allow us to grow in capacity and get more done, but after a push must be a rest. In order to allow the soil of our soul to replenish and grow new things, we need a chance to rest.

Busy was a constant pace of life for me, pre-child. When I slowed down in order to care for Sienna, and at times struggled, I had to question why I struggled, or why I had placed so much value in always having a project on the go. When I was just left with myself, was I happy with the person I had become and the things I had built? Even though built on a foundation of good intentions, were they important? Did anybody notice I wasn’t on the treadmill anymore? Had I, in turn, noticed others that weren’t as busy as myself or doing the same things as I? Had I been present in moments or just busy through them? Were people truly important to me or was the task always more pressing, under the guise of it being for others? They were tough questions to ask and although the answers weren’t all negative I did come to the conclusion that moving forward I’d rather be present than busy.

God’s treasure is humanity, He died for people, He overcame hell (literally) for people and so they need to be my greatest treasure also. I’ve realised that when we are busy, despite good intentions, people and their needs can often become overlooked. Caring for others isn’t convenient. It means stopping, listening, waiting, making time and going out of our way for others. When we’re busy we have less time to activate our care. I worked for a charity and I’ve always served within the church. It was easy to think that because I was doing roles and tasks that essentially were for the betterment of people that I was caring for others. And I was for the most part. However, if truth be told, sometimes the mission overtook those I was doing it for. An easy thing to happen for any of us if we’re honest. When we become so busy doing, we can forget all about ‘being’, as well as those that we are ‘doing’ it all with. Ultimately we won’t take what we did with us into eternity but we will take who we are and hopefully that which we’ve truly invested in other people.

Within all of us, I think there’s a hunger to live a life of significance. Incessant busyness can be a facade of significance and we must always re-assess what we do and why we do it. This requires stopping to think. For me, I want to have a positive influence and impact on the small section of eternity that I have the opportunity to reside on this earth. If people are in eternity, then it is people I must invest most in, and they must be my main priority in whatever endeavour I pursue, in every sphere of life. Whether they be family, friends, colleagues or neighbours, the way I treat them and interact with them has greater consequences than surface level human decency. In John 13 v 35, Jesus puts it this way,

By this, all people will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another.”

People will know that we belong to Jesus by how we love one another. Not what we put on for others, not what we work towards or the tasks we produce, but how we love one another. How we go out of our way for others, care for others, forgive each other, provide for each other, treat each other, LOVE one another.  

1 Corinthians 13 v 1 – 7 (The Message version) expresses it like this,

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. “

Basically, if I’m busy doing lots of ‘good stuff’ but I don’t have love, I have nothing. Quite sobering.

There are many great books available about time management and priorities in which we can learn from the experience, mistakes and corrections of others. But knowledge is no good unless it’s applied; application equals wisdom. Having some time to think has made me think again about some questions that I should regularly ask myself in order to recalibrate to being present over busy. In order to “change the game”, we actually have to CHANGE the game. Doing the same things as before but harder and faster or even more efficiently does not change the trajectory of our lives, our organisations or our families. In order for things to be different, we have to do things differently and actions speak louder than words. There’s a saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you’ve always been.”

Do you like me, need to reassess anything in your life? Here are some of the questions I have asked myself, what are yours?

  • Is this pursuit valuable; in alignment with my core values/convictions?
  • Is what I’m doing sustainable long-term?
  • Does the trajectory I’m on lead to the life that I want to live now and in the future?
  • Is what I’m sacrificing worth the outcome? I have to spend my energy on something, so is this worth the cost?
  • Can I make decisions about my own life?
  • Am I stewarding well what God has given me?
  • Who’s agenda am I fulfilling and do they care about me?

 

Tunnel Vision

TUNNEL VISION

This week we did the grocery shop as a family. When we’re all together, I’m aware that Rich isn’t a huge fan of shopping so I try and be as efficient as possible. I sent Rich off with Sienna to get an item off the list whilst I went in the opposite direction to fetch another. On my return, I spotted them both a little before they caught sight of me. Suddenly, Sienna, who was sitting in the trolley, looked up and saw me walking towards them. This was much to her delight and she responded by gleefully waving and saying “hiya” – that’s the Stokie in her! As soon as I realised she had seen me, I joyfully waved back and continued to make a beeline for them both. With my eyes fixed on her as our gaze locked, I ploughed through the other customers to receive my prize – a cuddle and a happy wiggle. However, in doing so I almost had a collision with a trolley and nearly mowed down an older person. Oops. Fortunately for us all, I caught them in my peripheral vision just in time to avoid chaos! What can I say? I was so happy to be reunited with my family, even after only a few minutes, and more importantly, I was delighted to see the excitement on Sienna’s face that I didn’t want to disappoint. I became headstrong in my pursuit of fulfilling that happy longing of hers to see her mummy.

It’s a cute small tale from an ordinary part of life, but it did pop into to my memory and make me smile as I got on with my day today. It made me think of how perhaps God must view us. Being a parent has definitely expanded my view of my relationship with Him. When you see the cogs turn behind the eyes of a toddler who’s just been told not to do something, you can definitely understand how Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Despite having access to all of the other wonderful gifts God had given them, they wanted the one thing they couldn’t have. Not too dissimilar from my little tinker! But more than that, the ways that I love Sienna, despite all of these things have given me a whole new revelation of God’s love for us. When she turned to see me and was filled with joy, my mummy heart wanted to respond as quickly as possible so that she knew her feelings were reciprocated.

How much more does God long for us to look up and notice Him so that He can respond in kind? We are created in His image, so we carry aspects of His nature and qualities. Yet they are but a shadow; a small reflection of Who He is. His Father heart must ache much more than mine for all of His kids.

In determined and unrelenting pursuit of us, motivated by pure love, despite ourselves, His tunnel vision for restoration lead Him to the cross. So desperate for us to know His heart, He put on human flesh and left His high position to become nothing to serve us, His creation, His children,

“..rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

Philippians 1 v 7-8

I saw a beautiful line this week in, “God is Good, He’s Better Than You Think”, by Bill Johnson. It reads like this, “Jesus Christ is perfect theology – He is the will of God personified.” Basically, if you want to know what God thinks, how He acts, what’s important to Him, look at Jesus. Jesus Himself said, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5 v 19). What Jesus taught, when He healed, when He had compassion and when He placed value on those that society outcast, you see the true heart and nature of God for humanity, for you and me.

I don’t know where you find yourself this Easter week. Up to your eyeballs in eggs and bunnies, busy at work, enjoying a holiday or feeling lonely or lost. Whether on top of the world, at rock bottom or somewhere in-between, it’s always good to be reminded that there is a Father in heaven with tunnel vision gazing adoringly at you. Since the beginning of time, He has pursued a relationship with us. When we messed up He set about embarking on His recovery plan. He’s not far off or distant, aloof or callous. He eagerly awaits us to notice His face looking intently and lovingly at us. He sent His Son to right our wrongs once and for all so that we would never have to doubt His feelings again.

Happy Easter week!

The Yield Point

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The Yield Point:

Where Growth Becomes Permanent

This past week has been particularly full for me, more than usual and my capacity has been stretched and tested. When thinking about it, I was reminded of an analogy for growth that my husband once shared which seemed accurate and encouraging. Rather than regurgitate his words, I asked him to pen his thoughts so that I could share them with you.

Enjoy……………..

I just recently went back to Cambridge with my family. It holds a lot of fond memories for me. It was where I studied at uni, where I met my wife, where I got my first job, where I got my first house. Cambridge will always be an important and formative place for me. I caught myself driving through the small winding streets and reminiscing about how things used to be. Life seemed so simple back then. Of course, at the time it didn’t feel simple at all. When I look back at what I used to stress about it’s actually quite amusing. It seemed huge at the time, but with the passing of time and a bit more ‘life experience’, it all seems so trivial now. It struck me that personal capacity develops through the years without us really noticing it. This made me wonder, “How does our capacity grow?”

Did you know that metals are elastic? It’s true. Metals behave similarly to elastic bands when you apply tension to them. Just like an elastic band, metals will stretch when you pull them. If you stop pulling them they will return to their original length. Because of this property, metals are said to behave elastically under certain conditions. If you apply more force, the metal will stretch further. Apply a bit more still and it stretches a bit further still. Each time the force is removed, the metal will return to its original shape. There is a point, however, that once crossed, will change the metal permanently. It’s called the yield point. Before the yield point, the metal has enough capacity to take the force applied to it. When the force is removed it simply relaxes back into its normal position. But when the yield point is reached, it’s a different story. The metal has been subjected to so much force that all of its inbuilt capacity to carry the force has been overwhelmed. When removing the force now, the metal does not return to its original length, it has been permanently stretched and therefore is permanently enlarged.

I think this illustration gives an unique insight into how growth can work in us. For most of our lives we operate within our ‘elastic zone.’ Every now and then a little more is asked of us than usual. That might be in the form of a work deadline, a house move, or revising for an exam. An external pressure that applies some extra “force”. When these challenges come our way we feel stretched and a little overwhelmed, but we actually have enough capacity within ourselves to deal with the stretch on a temporary basis. Remove the external pressure and we return to normal. Nothing has really changed, although we’re pretty happy we don’t have to deal with whatever it was anymore. For most of life’s ups and downs, this is perfectly adequate.

There are, however, certain situations where we reach the end of ourselves when all our capacity is spent and the external force isn’t removed but continues to pull. Perhaps things start with just a work deadline which then escalates into a work deadline and a house move, plus an exam and maybe an illness, add the kids playing up and … well, you get the idea. Before we know it one thing has snowballed into another and it feels like an avalanche is heading our way. It can seem never-ending and like we’re going to be engulfed any second. The truth is though, we’ve hit our yield point. It’s painful, and it feels like we’re going to break, we’re being permanently stretched. It’s in these times that we find ourselves experiencing permanent growth. If we place these experiences into the hands of God, it can be in a positive way. When all the external pressures are removed, we don’t return to our original state, we return to a new state, hopefully, a bigger state. We’ve been permanently enlarged.

There have been so many times in my life that I’ve felt completely out of control and at breaking point, but if truth be told, I’d just hit my yield point. As human beings, we are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Unfortunately, it’s only in times of pressure that we see how resilient we really are. I have changed the way I view challenges and setbacks. I’ve reframed them as ‘Moments Of Permanent Growth.’ Easier said than done I know, but it does change your outlook and perspective in a positive way. Tough times come to everyone, it’s an unfortunate fact. Live long enough and you will have a period that just seems to really suck. Understanding that these moments can be of benefit to us in the long term, doesn’t necessarily make them easier to navigate, but it can give them a sense of purpose in the midst of the stretch. They aren’t pleasant but they can be useful.

Looking back on the tough times I’ve had to walk through, I wouldn’t want to walk through them again, but I do recognise that I’m a bigger person because of them. I guess that’s the point really. Ultimately it’s in our lack and in our need that our awareness of God is heightened. In our weakness we can see His strength. When we get through the other side and look back, we realise that God is faithful and so the next time a challenge comes we have a personal revelation and experience of His faithfulness in our life. “If God got me through that, He can get me through this.” That allows us to face an uncertain future with an assurance that we do have the capacity to withstand adverse force, but not in our strength, in His. So if you feel like you’re at breaking point, take heart! Where we end, He begins.

2 Corinthians 12 v 9

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

 

One Shot

one shot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Mums Make Great Leaders III

why mums make great leaders 3

If you’ve been following the conversation, thanks and welcome back to part three of the why mums can make great leaders mini-series. If you’ve no idea what the title means or why I’d be writing about such things, check here to get some context.

Without further ado, here are three more attributes of leadership that can grow with motherhood.

Priorities

As I continue to grow as a mum I realise there’s daily choices to make, battles to fight and things to learn. Within my choices, there are often multiple responses I could make dependent on how important I believe the value of the outcome is. For example, Sienna has started to hold onto the safety gate at the top of the stairs and shake it. When I’m trying to get things done and want her to be occupied it’s easy to let things slide, but this is not something I can afford to do that with. Apart from the obvious, immediate potential safety risk if she pulled too hard and the gate was compromised, there’s the ongoing safety risk as she gets older and stronger. Further to this is the greater issue of learning to listen to her parents and understanding the value of no and safe boundaries. Because there are often multiple decisions to make of varying significance, prioritising in preparation and on the spot are key to both good parenthood and leadership.

Efficiency

Simply put, as a mum you have more things to do now that you have a child and less time to do them. Therefore, as well as streamlining what you do, you have to become fast and efficient in the outworking of tasks. There’s a saying, “If you want something doing, ask a busy person”. It’s amazing how little time you waste when you can’t afford to waste it.

Teachability

If you want to do a good job in any area of life, teachability is a must. As a mum, you’re forever learning new things as your child learns new things. New nap times, new tantrums, new questions, maths homework, boundaries, new independence and opinions. Not only are you navigating new discoveries, you’re having to help them navigate new discoveries – puberty, disappointments, first loves (eek). Mums have to evolve just as leaders have to evolve in order to be able to respond to the ever-changing environment. Each child is different and whilst there are general practices and advice that can be adhered to, people aren’t a puzzle to be solved but rather living organisms to develop alongside.

Honesty

As a good leader, you can’t avoid confrontation, even if you believe it’s not a personal strength. It is the responsibility of a leader to address certain awkward situations. Confrontation must be done with honour and tact and the truth must be spoken in love. As a mum, we have to encourage our children in the right direction even when it’s uncomfortable. As parents we have to fiercely and unconditionally love our children which sometimes requires brutal truths. It could mean steering children away from bad choices, attitudes or company or it could be gently guiding them away from the pursuit of things that aren’t their strengths.

Honesty and clarity when giving praise are also important. Parents should be the greatest cheerleaders of their children and specificity in what they do well is as important as being specific on what they need to improve on.


So…. thanks for reading, I hope this mini-series is bringing some encouragement to someone somewhere. It’s been good for me personally to think about and document.

Coming up… A fun Mother’s Day video celebrating mums and an interview full of GOLD which includes some wisdom on how to nurture leaders within your children.