To bend towards.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a car’s tyre disintegrate before my very eyes.  Thankfully the car was being towed by a tow truck and thankfully the tyre debris didn’t cause any damage to anyone or anything else on the busy Auckland motorway that I was on. But it isn’t every day you see a tyre just blow itself to smithereens.  Nope. Not in NZ anyway.

Now flashback to living in America and you couldn’t drive anywhere, on any road – be it small country road or giant interstate that would go on for miles and miles, without seeing tire graveyards here and there.  Here and there and everywhere.

In New Zealand we have this thing called a ‘Warrant of Fitness’ for all our vehicles.  This is like a check up for a car’s general health.  All sorts of things are checked and ticked off a big list, and it is an ongoing, regular thing.  If the vehicle doesn’t pass, then it isn’t considered ‘roadworthy’ – safe to be on the roads, and if you’re caught driving a car or motorbike or whatever, that doesn’t have a current Warrant of Fitness, then the police will fine you.  One of the many things checked…….tyres…..and if yours aren’t up to par….then you have to replace them with ones that are roadworthy.  So you don’t see a lot of blown tyre bits littering our motorways and roads, because usually the tyres are caught before they get that close to blowing.

This whole tyre/tire and warrant of fitness thing got me thinking about how sometimes we need to do a wee tune up, a wee ‘warrant of fitness’ on ourselves before things blow themselves up. Sometimes we choose to do this……and at other times because of ‘life’ and all that ‘life’ chucks at us, we sometimes are forced to look at all of the areas in our life and look at how healthy they are and what could be better/improved/ different.

For me – one of the things on my checklist just lately has been looking at what my core truths are – what are my very foundational beliefs and how do I walk those out in my real, everyday life?  You see one of the things at my core, is the thinking that You Can’t Buy Half a Happy Meal  When you sign up to be ‘all in’ with something, you can’t always pick and choose what parts you’d like to participate in, what only feels good to put your ‘yes’ to.  As a follower of Christ, then I am essentially choosing to believe that God says he is who he says he is, and also, that I am who he says I am. All of it.  The whole package deal.

Sometimes that’s a tough concept to get your head around.

You see if you dig around in the bible for any length of time, you read that God thinks about us a whole bunch.

A whole bunch.

God says we are his children.

We are chosen, holy and blameless.

We are His workmanship.

We have been made complete in Him.

And these are just a tiny snippet of the things that God says we are.

After having a conversation with a friend about a few of these ‘what God thinks of us, of me’ things and realizing that I don’t always fully embrace all of these things, I was driving (again – this time no flying tyre bits) and the verse Zephaniah 3:17 came into my mind.

 The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.

I kinda like the idea of someone rejoicing over me with singing.  Singing equates with happy.  Happy is good. ‘That’s cool’ I thought.  Then I got the nudging to pull over, stop my car and look a bit closer at the words ‘He will take great delight in you’.

And I kinda like the idea of someone taking great delight in me even more.

You see I looked at what the original idea of delight means in the bible.  Word geek, I know.  And I discovered that one of the two most common Hebrew terms for ‘delight’ is ‘hepes’, and ‘hepes’ means ‘to bend towards, to be inclined towards’.

Boom.

The God of the Universe, the Creator of the universe, the one who set the stars in place and created man and woman and who knows the very number of hairs on your head, He also cares enough about you to bend towards you, to incline himself towards you.

And He does this to me too.

And why is this such a BOOM thing for me? And maybe for you?

It’s as simple as this:  who do we bend towards in our everyday lives?

We bend towards those we want to communicate with.  We bend towards those we want to be physically closer to.  Working with children 101 states that to chat to children you need to get down on their level, you need to physically lower yourself, to incline yourself towards them.  We bend towards those who are the more seasoned citizens among us – this helps them to hear us, to be close to us, and sometimes this physical proximity makes it easier, when  its appropriate, to hold their hands, to let them know they are not alone.  We bend towards our significant others – there’s nothing like knowing you can just melt into someones arms.  We physically change our posture and move our bodies towards those who we want to be closer to; those we love.  It is a natural instinct.  And, our Father in heaven, He does that for us.

HE DOES THAT FOR US!!!

He delights in us , truly delights in us, by being close to us, by moving towards us.  Let that sink into your heads and your hearts my friends.  That’s pretty comforting. That’s a beautiful picture of the intensely personal God that I serve.

That’s a great byproduct of an ongoing Warrant of Fitness for sure.

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The Right Undercoat.

One of my bosses is building himself an arcade machine from scratch.  He’s built the box for the game, found a monitor for it, has speakers at the ready, and has sourced all the different computer parts for it.  There’s even going to be a slot for putting in coins to play the games (and a way to retrieve them!).  It’s a fun project and he likes telling me how his progress is going.  I can follow the project, but only to a point.  Once he starts talking about different computer components and the way it all communicates and the various cards that hold the hundreds of games he’ll be able to play on this machine, I get a little lost.  I nod and ahh and smile as best I can.  But.  I am pretty clueless.

What’s the last thing you googled?  The last thing I googled was ‘what is the multi-universe theory?’.  One of my kids has done a research project on it and me, being clueless, wanted to learn a little something something, so I could ask my kid a few semi-intelligent questions on the subject.

I (mostly) have a pretty good handle on the things that I know that I know.  And I (mostly) have a pretty good handle on the things that I know I don’t know, although sometimes I get both these things wrong.  But I was thinking the other day that one thing I do know, with all my heart and mind and soul, is that I’m so very grateful that I know the love of God to be true, and I feel that it surrounds me and sets me up for whatever life may chuck at me, as it is the ‘undercoat of paint’ in my very being.

I’m no picasso, and I’ve never painted a wall in my life – you kinda need to own a home to do that – BUT – I got this interesting picture in my head the other day so run with me?

Undercoats of paint serve as a foundation upon which to layer more paint, on your canvas.  Imagine for a moment that you can cover yourself in a layer of love, of dependable, constant love, of agape love (God’s faithful love for us) and on that foundation, other things are attached. On that foundation, the way you think, the way you act is attached.

Undercoats of paint also put a pop of base colour into your work, that allow your final work to be impacted in some way.  Now here’s the thing about painting and layers:  sometimes the top coats of paint don’t end up the way we’re completely happy with. Sometimes the paint is tinted slightly wrong or different to what we may have ordered.  Or the shades are slightly different to how we envisioned they would be when we looked at the paint chip cards.  Or we do big oopsies with our brush strokes and make a mess of things.  And sometimes little finger prints leave marks or bugs fly in and get stuck.  All kinds of things happen to make our end result with the top layers, just not all we want them to be. Life is full of those curveballs that make our lives not what we want or plan for or desire.  But if we’ve got that base layer down as best we can – at least we’ve got a chance of success. At least we’ve got a good foundation for further layers to go on.  At least our base is steadfast and smooth.

If you get your undercoat of paint right, if you can fully accept God’s unending love for you, and kinda ‘cover’ yourself in that, then your final layers of how you see the world, how you respond to situations, how you deal with life, those things are more likely to be positive and helpful.  And it doesn’t actually matter if your top layers of paint are sometimes not quite right, because the good thing about paint is it can be painted over with another layer. Got a sticking point that you’re struggling with?  Try another layer, with a different perspective.

So how am I so assured of God’s love for me?  How can this be one of the things that I know that I know that I know? I choose to believe what I read of God’s love for me in the bible.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic.  Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost:  Not a man, not mouse.

I choose to believe these words and countless others, that talk of God’s love for me.  But these are not just for little ‘ole me – they are for you too.

And I’ve seen His goodness – the signs of His love and care for me.  Time and time again. The gifts that are my children – after I went through seasons of infertility and was told I wouldn’t be able to conceive again.  The gift of a diagnosis, after three years of horrendous pain and ongoing tests.  The provision of material goods after we gave away/ sold nearly everything we owned and moved to another country to follow God’s nudgings for us.  The fact our children don’t hate us and are socially and academically just fine after being moved to two different countries in the space of thirteen months.  These are just a few of the ways I can look at my life and remember just how much my Father God loves me and cares for me.

I look back and I see His goodness and I know His love, and I look forward, and I know there are so many things I still don’t know, and I still may have trouble making the top coat of paint in my thinking all smooth and uniform and just ‘right’, but the undercoat of God’s love is the perfect place to build a good foundation on. God’s love, care and kindness, form brushstroke after brushstroke after brushstroke, on this masterpiece in the making.  And in yours too.

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What do you bring?

Before you read any of my words, please, first, go to this website and watch this ad here

Go on.

Off you go.

See you in exactly three minutes.

Now.

Welcome back.

I just watched that ad for the first time, thanks to Facebook.  And I couldn’t help BUT smile.  It’s nice, aye?  It’s a true piece of Kiwiana, and it’s celebrating our diversity and highlighting our uniqueness, and it’s also very honouring of people.  It is saying that every Kiwi, no matter who they are, brings something special to the table.

I’d like to make that claim even bigger and broader though, and say that EVERYONE, everywhere brings something special to the table.  And I’m no feel-good, paid by every latte-driven minute marketer, working for an advertising company.   Pretty hoity-toity of me, right?

But I believe it.

I believe we all have something to offer others, we all have something to better this world we live in by our very existence, and we are a beautiful mix of all sorts.

One little problem is that not all of us are able to completely believe that, right here and right now.

On Friday I was just on my way home, leaving an event, when a passing comment turned into a longer conversation, and a friend of mine shared a little of where she’s at with life right now.  And my heart hurt for her.  That conversation was a reminder that life really isn’t always easy.  Some living situations are just plain bad.  Some people’s bodies don’t work as they should.  And sometimes life’s worries can just be a long and dark tunnel, of which the end is nowhere in sight.

This very morning another friend of mine shared with me of how she had cleaned the blocked drain of her shower that morning. As she removed handful after handful of strands of her own hair from the drain, she was blinking back the tears.  The hair loss isn’t some reaction to a terrible cancer treatment, but one of a series of physiological responses to trauma she’s facing.

These friends of mine – they’re in the middle of some perfect storms.  With not a lot of relief yet in sight.  And yes, as a Christian I believe that God is with my friends, and His presence can and does bring them peace, and comfort and hope. And I can tell them that these valley experiences are what brings character and shapes personality, and that would be true and good and right – and there’s a time and a place for comments like that.  But a by-product of facing storms like these, like the ones my friends are in at the moment, is that people are robbed of feeling worthwhile in the now.  They don’t feel they have anything special to bring to the table, because survival kinda happens to be their priority. One day at a time is what is manageable.

So what would I say to them, then?  And what would I say to you, if that was you?

I would say:

Look at what is being revealed in you now, in spite of your circumstances.  Look at what amazing character traits are there – that you previously didn’t know existed. Look at the patience you show.  Look at your capacity to endure.

We haven’t lived in the house we’re in at the moment, for very long.  So it is interesting to look around the garden every few weeks and see what is blooming.  Even in winter.  My most dreaded season.  The season we associate with hard times and troubles, with darkness and waiting for spring, even now there are things blooming, that were never in flower in summer.  So just as the garden is ever changing and ever surprising: so are you.

What can you see in you, at this time, that you haven’t seen before, because you haven’t been this way before?

And that  – that thing that is in you – that’s just one of the many things that you bring to the table my friend.  

In the storm and out of the storm.

You bring much to the table.

Each and every one of you.

 

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Through the Fog.

My oldest son is a self-proclaimed aviation geek.  He lives and breathes anything to do with aviation and has done since he was quite young.  The highlight of his fifteen years of life so far has to be his visit to the Boeing Factory just out of Seattle (you can read about that here – it was truly remarkable) when he was ten.

Nat has now reached the age and stage of his ‘hobby’ where he is starting to actually learn how to fly. Not just use a simulator programme, but actually fly a little two seater plane, up high in the sky.  Gulp.  He’s not old enough to legally be behind the wheel of a car, but he can be learning how to fly a plane. Part of me longs to have him as a toddler with a mop of blonde hair, sitting on my lap as I read ‘The Little Yellow Digger’ to him for the millionth time, and another part of me knows that he is starting to live out his dream.  And it is a wonderful thing.

Our future pilot was supposed to have his second trial flight (with the special club he belongs to where pilots sponsor young kids to get them air time) this past weekend, but we woke to fog blanketing our city.  So there were no small planes taking off or landing at the club headquarters that day, much to everyone’s temporary disappointment.

The old fog and planes thing – it is an interesting thing.  Bigger planes are actually totally ok to fly in thick fog and to land in thick fog.  All of the electronic equipment on board makes it a simple process for big planes to do this.  The problematic part to fog being present comes in to play when the planes are on the ground, when pilots of any size plane are relying heavily on the view from their plane’s windscreen to avoid collisions with other aircraft and airport vehicles as they taxi.  Procedures for low visibility situations call for planes landing at an airport to be separated by six miles rather than the usual three miles.  So this is what causes major delays and disruptions when there is fog at airports, much to everyone’s dismay.

Fog – it can make you misjudge distances.  You can’t see what is behind you, beside you or in front of you very well at all.  Sometimes our own judgement can be clouded by fog of some sort.

Fog – it can be unreliable feelings, disconnected feelings.  Sometimes it can be as a result of going through life listening to the soundtrack of negativity and criticism.

Fog – it blocks our view of the sun, even though we know that the sun is there and we know it is going to break through sooner or later.

Fog – in my simple way of thinking is anything that stands in the way of you believing that you are who God says you are, anything that stops you from embracing and taking full flight.

Fog doesn’t actually change what is good and true and right and all around us – the beauty and truth is still there, its just a little harder to see.

I think all of us struggle at some point or another with some element of fog in our lives.  But just as planes have got all sorts of fancy equipment to keep them on track, we too have great tools at our disposal to help us deal with the fog that invades our lives. And it is good to remember these things.  The word of truth – the bible.  The gift of Godly friendship.  The ability to worship, to focus on the goodness of God.  These all help the fog to dissipate.  These gifts help the sun to break through.

Fog tends to isolate us and cause us to feel stranded, not to mention cause major disruptions to normal life – but this is only temporary.  The sun does break through and fog does lift.  Flights do get postponed and then they do happen.  New travel arrangements are made.  New travel dates do happen.  Life does continue.  Hope remains ever steadfast.  Fog whether its in our thinking and believing or in the physical, isn’t a permanent state.  And that’s worth holding on to. That’s worth remembering.

My aviation son will have another chance to get up high in the sky, in that tiny little plane, another weekend, very soon.  And the time not spent up in the air last weekend, was still time spent with friends, like-minded people all as passionate as he is, and he learnt some new lessons to do with flight.  It was not wasted.

The fog comes and goes, in the physical and in the flow of our feelings and our beliefs about ourselves and our situations are sometimes hazier than they should be, but it helps to remember that the sun is always shining and sooner or later it will break though. My friend, the fog will lift.

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Perfect love that never lets go.

When clouds veil sun
And disaster comes 

We very rarely see it coming, do we?  Disaster. Tragedy. Life changing happenings. Those gut wrenching, heart stealing events or moments or conversations just sneak up on us.  Sometimes overnight, sometimes over a longer amount of time, but they never come to an expectant open door.


Oh, my soul

Oh, my soul

When waters rise

And hope takes flight 

The waters, they do rise.  The attempted drownings, they do happen.

And hope?  Sometimes it isn’t the dependable always can be relied on as your True North thing that we’d like it to be.  Sometimes hope does try to run, run like the wind.


Oh, my soul

Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul 

Oh, my sad soul.  Oh, your ‘tested to the limits you never knew existed’ soul.

You see recently I’ve had the privilege to have had a front row seat while dear friends have experienced the most awful of situations.  I’ve seen grief’s fingers claw and snatch and poke and prod.  And my own life has not always been sunshine and roses.  The waters have risen.  I’ve seen and I’ve known what it is to only be able to focus on breathing.  In and out. In and out.

But, even as the waters have risen.  Even as the clouds have veiled the sun.  Even as hope has taken flight. Even then, I’ve seen and I’ve known what it is for love to swoop down, to tenderly kneel beside me and for grace to kiss my cheeks.

Ever faithful
Ever true
You I know
You never let go
You never let go
You never let go
You never let go

I believe without a doubt that God is ever faithful, He is ever true.  He never lets go. Even when uncertainty limits and diagnosis brings lives to a halt, when relationships shatter and tear apart, when people fail and let others down.  He never lets us go.

He gives us grace for the journey, and companions too.

When clouds brought rain
And disaster came
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul
When waters rose
And hope had flown
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul
Oh, my soul

Oh, my soul
Overflows
Oh, what love, oh, what love
Oh, my soul
Fills with hope
Perfect love that never lets go

Oh, what love, oh, what love
Oh, what love, oh, what love
In joy and pain
In sun and rain
You’re the same
Oh, You never let go

I don’t know what you’re facing right here and right now.  Or maybe it is something your friend is facing, and you’re merely trying to be by their side, and support them as best as you can, but you feel horribly out of your depth.  This is new territory to you. This I say to you anyway: God is with you. God is with your loved one.  The same God who created the universe and everything in it, He is with you.  He is with your troubled one.  He is unchanging and steadfast.  He is constant and true.  And when you’re going through high waters, nothing is truer than this: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).  He’s there, and He is able.  He will lend you some strength.  He will lend you some courage.  He will equip and inspire.

Yes, life can be awfully cruel at times, and in the waiting, and in the processing and in the figuring out, if all one can do is to concentrate on breathing in and breathing out, then that’s just fine.  Because you’re not breathing alone.  He’s not letting go, dear one. He’s not letting go.

(words in italics not mine, but David Crowder band lyrics to ‘Never Let Go’)

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Like Royalty.

My family recently had an extended family holiday in Japan.  Three generations, coming from all different parts of Australasia, met up at Haneda Airport and spent eight days exploring and experiencing all that we could.

It was the first time in my six year old’s life that all twelve of us had ever been all together, and the last time that I’d been with both my siblings was eight years ago.  So all in all it was a very special time.

Japan is a very interesting country – how the people manage to hold onto their heritage and things integral to their culture, while still making all the technological advances they do – I don’t know – but they do it so well.  There was always something fascinating to look at/ touch/ feel/ eat (for the more adventurous!).

One of the things we did while we were in the city of Kyoto was stay in a traditional Ryokan, a guesthouse/ inn.  My brother had arranged for my husband and I, my sister and her husband, to have a night away, and he and my parents looked after our kids for us.

The whole Ryokan experience was pretty fancy.  And unique.

This wasn’t just some Motel 6 where you rock on up at whatever time of the days suits you and your travel itinerary, then you’re handed a key and off you to go to find your room, lugging your luggage behind you.

No – we were greeted by the staff the moment we stepped out of our taxi.  The staff were waiting for us.  They unloaded the taxi for us.  They carried out luggage inside for us and stood by our sides while we checked in.  Then before we were escorted to our rooms, we were sat down and given cloths to wipe our hands clean with, a cup of hot green tea to drink, and a little snack to eat.  Then we were taken up to our rooms and were told about all the how tos and what not to dos with staying in the inn.  Our dinner, all nine courses of it, was waiting for us in the evening, at the set time we’d requested.  Our breakfast was also set and waiting for us in the morning.  When we left the inn the morning, we had the same help with our luggage – after the inn staff had summoned  a taxi for us. Then as we drove off – the staff stood waving us goodbye.

Now I’ve stayed in a fancy pants hotel before.  A very long time ago.  But still.  While three star accommodation is my norm, its not like the whole fancy pants scenario is totally foreign to me.  But I’ve never had people eagerly anticipate my arrival to anything/ anywhere in such a way before.  My husband tracking my leaving work to have a hot cuppa ready for me when I get home is lovely – and appreciated – and maybe that’s the closest I’ve had to this treatment.

And you know, the whole thing about our night at the Ryokan.  Yes it was lovely to be able to experience this side of Japanese culture, and it had been a very long time since my husband and I had been away from our kids overnight (the last time was when my brother took us to New York and we had a glorious 56 hour adventure, four years ago now), what was amazing about the whole thing was; it was a part of the whole trip.  The whole trip that didn’t have a price tag on it for us.  Someone else paid for it.  Someone else arranged it.  Someone else sacrificed a bit of themselves, purely for our benefit.

All we had to do was show up, and accept the gift of the trip offered to us.

Sometimes there are a lot of words thrown around in Christian circles that sound a lot like gobbledegook and are a bit hard to explain, and its an even harder thing to really walk through your life with an understanding of them. ‘Grace’ is one of these things.

I’ve been thinking that our Ryokan night away is like the whole concept of grace.  And maybe this will help you understand that, if ‘grace’ is something you struggle with.

My husband and I, my sister and her husband, all got to have a wonderful experience. Our presence was expected.  The people staffing the inn, welcomed us with open arms.  They treated us like royalty.  And the bill had already been paid – not by us.

My God in heaven is waiting for us to turn to Him.  We have free choice.  We can make the decision to trust Him with our lives, and when we do, He is there, present.  Willing and able to comfort us, to surround us with His love. We are royalty in His presence.

And the price to have this amazing relationship with Him, the bill for this gift, well it has already been paid. When Jesus died that painful death on the cross, and then rose again, that was the ultimate in bill paying.  Jesus was the sacrifice, purely for our benefit.

We get to enjoy abundant life, because of nothing we’ve done.  We don’t have to strive.  We don’t have work for this.  We just have to accept it.  Like we did for our once in a life time Ryokan experience.  Only this gift of grace – its not just a once off thing. Its not for one day, one night redemption only. It is a forever thing.  We may not all have generous benefactors who wish to bring their earthly family together and create some amazing memories – but we all do have an amazing God who is longing for us to accept this gift of grace.

That’s something worth thinking about, that’s one gift we can all receive.

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Vulnerability and band aids.

There’s a reason that first aid kits in commercial kitchens usually stock band aids in gaudy bright, fluorescent colours.  You actually want a chef/ cook/ kitchen hand to notice when their manky old band aid has come off, cos you don’t want that in your meal. No ma’am.  No sir.

Band aids.  Bandages.  They serve a purpose, for a time, but sooner or later those puppies need to come off your body and be disposed of properly.

I’ve been thinking about ‘vulnerability’ lately and have been thinking that vulnerability is a little like a band aid that needs a little bit of help to be ripped off, before it falls off.

When you have a wound, a little or a big ‘owie’, there’s a need for it to be covered up for a little bit. You need to keep the wound clean, and clear from infection.  You also need to to protect it a little from further bashes and bumps.  You don’t want any more blood loss. (And by the way, look after yourself dear ones when you do have a band aid on. One of the stooopidest things I’ve done in one of my jobs was go to work straight after getting a blood test done. You don’t ever want to cut up twenty kgs of carrots after having some blood suckered out of your arm.  Nope.  No you don’t.)  Back to the band aid.  That band aid isn’t designed to stay on forever.  It is only a temporary stopgap.  At some stage your wound will also benefit from a little fresh air – this too has healing powers.  And we all know how gross it is to see band aids that have come off when people haven’t expected that – there’s something really repulsive about seeing them not disposed of properly.

I’m learning that vulnerability is a little like a band aid that needs you to take it off.  We need to open up to each other.  We need the healing power that comes in the salve of one another’s kindness and caring – but that is only possible to apply properly, when we open up to one another. When we expose our wounds to one another. When we peel back our band aids. Then we can bear one another’s burdens.

The band ‘Rend Collective’ recently wrote ‘it is in the rawest, most gaping, and angry scars that authentic faith is often found’.  Scars expose testimonies – testimonies shout of God’s grace.  God’s favour.  God’s loving kindness.  God’s ability to scoop us up and out of whatever messy situations we’re in.  God’s restorative power.  God’s healing strength.

One of my darling boys scratched his face with a long fingernail when he was merely hours old.  That precious, soft and smooth skin on his face was scarred.  He’ll always have that little reminder on his cheek. My own body has scars of battles with hot fudge (I seriously lost), and a stomach stretched to its limits by whopping big babies.  But its not the scars on our bodies that need the most healing – its the ones in our very souls.

It is a hard thing opening up to friends.  There’s trust that must be mustered up.  There’s swallowing of pride. There are doubts and uncertainties that raise their ugly heads.  Sometimes confidences are betrayed, that’s just a reality of life. But you know what?  The pay off that comes with sharing your heart anyway, is worth it. The healing that comes when you do become vulnerable yourself, is worth it.  The reciprocity that happens when you need a friend, and when the friend needs to be needed – creates  levels of shared experience that can’t be faked and can’t be created under any other circumstances, other than this shared vulnerability.

C.S Lewis said ‘We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves’. It has taken me a while to learn this, but I totally agree with him.  We don’t know what we don’t know…..friends can help us with this…..we need others more than we may think.

I don’t want to leave a nasty trail band aids lying around all over the place – peeled off at the very worst of times, in the very worst of places, so I’m learning to make myself vulnerable. And to rip off those band aids when I can.  To open up.  To share my heart.  To let the soothing words of others heal my little nicks and scratches.  I’m pretty sure it is worth it.

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Before, before.

I drive past the construction site of a new department store every day.  Every. Single. Day. And this new building has been months in the making already.  For more than a year there’s been a crane at the worksite, and lots of busy beavers have been doing what they do best.  Building.

The building is starting to take shape now.  It didn’t look like much was happening for ages – but now – progress is visible.

So you’re probably thinking that I’m now gonna start talking about foundations and the importance of them, and of how all that hard work that took so long went into the foundations of that new department store, so it can be safe and sturdy and secure for ever and ever amen.

Yes.  Yes to all of that.

Foundations are good and important and have to be done just right.

And.

I’m fortunate to know some great engineers, specifically some very talented civil engineers.  I’ve stumbled along, through my ignorance and I’ve (sometimes) asked enough of the right kind of questions about their work, so now I feel I can say with a little bit of certainty, that what goes on with regards to a construction site, before absolutely anything is built on it, is just as important as those foundations that we all know we need.  Foundations that are both visible and invisible.  The hard yards that go into a construction site before that ground is even turned, the hard yards that determine the very success of a building aren’t often seen – but their effects are very much felt.

Civil engineers, when they are doing their jobs correctly, make sure that a new building can not fail – not in its getting permits from the council stage, not in its actual construction and not when the elements rage and its structural integrity is potentially challenged.

But we don’t often see their work, because when everything is done right, there are no issues, no problems – there’s no evidence of a job well done – other than a job well done.

I’ve been wondering if  we could all focus on the ‘engineering’ of our lives a little more, and a little closer?  I’ve been reflecting on how helpful it is to have really good building blocks for areas of my life, and those blocks then build the foundation of who I am and what I stand for.  Rarely are those blocks seen – but they create  and build into the me that is evident to others.

There are some things that others in your world just don’t see you do – but these things build and shape you as a person.  The way I speak to myself, the things my mind dwells on, my prayer life, the internal battles that happen – these are all pre-foundational things so to speak, and it is upon these things that the rest of my life is built on.

These things are important.  They make or break us in various situations.  They determine the structural integrity of our lives.

I was in shock over the weekend as I came to terms with the news that the husband of a very dear friend of mine was killed in a car crash. Their whole community is reeling, their whole community is rallying around them and there’s a very tangible sadness in the air. But. There’s also Hope.  My friend, one of the most honest and real ladies I know, wrote this today on social media:

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Reminded of this today as the Lord continues to take care of me and the kids in small and huge ways!!! I knew God loved me……but the amount of love all at once is overwhelming and takes my breath away. Jesus Christ is my forever. How can one survive the deepest sorrow and the most abundant joy in one body and mind? I sometimes feel like I might die from the heart ache and other times I can feel the Lord holding me up. Friends, we are going to be ok. But can I give you a loving wise word? Go to your husband or wife….tell them you love them…treat them well and always always forgive. Don’t take small things for granted. And please bless me by taking great care of your marriages. There’s a family today without a husband and daddy……remember time is a gift. #iwillalwaysloveyou

To be able to write that, four days into the journey of grief and loss that this is for Treva, shows just what kind of substance she is made of.  She’s made of grit, and steadfastness, of rawness and vulnerability. She’s honest and the depth to her faith is giving her support when she truly needs it the very most.  Because she’s engineered her life on truth.  On faith. On hope.  And on love.  Treva sees and knows herself as a child of God. She knows the heart of her heavenly Father, and on those basic underlying truths, she’s built good and solid foundations for her life and for her family – and  this ‘engineering’, this is the thing that will sustain her at the moment.  The ‘engineering’ will be the thing that gives her strength to face each new day – as hard and as heart-wrenching as it is.

And I truly believe that this same ‘engineering’ is available to each and every one of us.

What do engineers do if they come across a problem in a construction regarding sewage (there’s a lot of that, that comes our way), or water supply problems?  They find a solution.  They work and they work and they work to find a way that is going to work to ensure success for the building.  We all get ‘sewage’ issues in our lives from time to time.  We need to work and work to find a way to deal with them.  And water supply?  The times that I’m the happiest, the most joyful and the most secure in myself are the times when I get my water supply straight from the source – when I’m not doing things in my own strength but the Lord’s.

There are always going to be situations that arise when new engineering solutions are needed, and we’re always going to be works in progress – but that’s ok. We all get new and fresh chances – there are always new opportunities for new projects.

Because good things take time, don’t they?  Just like that new department store I can see being built.  One day the crane will be gone and the store will open, but I’ll often think of the foundations that took so long to build, and then I’ll also think about the time before the crane was even there, and all the work that went into preparing the building for success.

 

 

 

 

When English doesn’t cut it.

I think we need more of the imperfect in our lives. All sorts of imperfect.

And, specifically, I think we need more of the Latin imperfect tense in our lives.

Random, I know.

But relevant.

Just lately I’ve been forced to think about where my family is at in life with certain things. Don’t worry, this isn’t a ‘woe is me’ post, but rather a very real acknowledgement of the choices we’ve made; the things we’ve said ‘yes’ to.

You see sometimes we think that saying ‘yes’ to something is a once-off event.  And sometimes it really is.  But where I’m at in life tells me that saying ‘yes’ to something is more often than not, a continual action. An ongoing action. And it helps to recognize this.

Years ago, when our oldest boy was a chubby five month old we said ‘yes’ to an ask for my husband to leave his job in mainstream media and move into Christian media.  We said yes then, and then we said ‘yes’ again to another job offer in America, and then Australia, and then another one back in NZ.  Yes, yes and yes. But even before that initial yes when we were in the throes of power chucks and power poos (our firstborn – not us), we’d been saying ‘yes’ to opportunities to serve the youth and young adults in our church, yes to stuffing envelopes and whatever little tasks needed doing.  Yes.  Just yes. Yes that stemmed from a desire to see us just be used by God.  Has it been hard?  Yes.  Has it been amazing?  Yes. Are we a little crazy?  I think it has helped!  Would we change anything if we could?  Not a chance.  But that’s all a very big tangent that I won’t take right now.

This continual action business – I think it could do with a bit more of a spotlight shining on it, because it is important in shaping the trajectory of our lives.

I think we could all do with remembering that many things require this continual action.

Saying ‘yes’ to a loving someone is not a one-time event, is it?  You don’t go to all the trouble of a fancy pants wedding to love and to hold your spouse for just that week.  No, you choose to love to them, again and again and again.  You see beyond the niggly and the hard and you love, and you love and you love.  Again and again.  Continually.

I love words.  I love interesting words.  But sometimes I find that the English language can be somewhat lacking in accurately describing things.  My high school offered Latin as a subject, and I loved it.  Dead language?  I think not.  A language that makes complete sense?  Absolutely.  In Latin (and all the romance languages) there’s a tense for this whole ‘more than once’ in the past business.  The imperfect tense is used to indicate an action that took place in the past but was an ongoing action rather than something that happened just once.  It’s actually a very handy tool to have.

To put it into context:  do you know that old hymn ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’?  “I have decided to follow Jesus. (3 times)No turning back, no turning back.”  There’s a story around this hymn that talks of an Indian convert (thanks to some Welsh Missionaries) coming up with the lines of this hymn when he was facing his imminent death. His martyrdom. The Village chief hadn’t approved of his conversion to Christianity.  Now this wasn’t a ‘brand new, knee-jerk reaction, just made the commitment to be a Christ follower on the spot, right there and then’ statement, no it was a ‘I have decided, I have decided over and over again, to follow Jesus’.  If the song had been written in Roman times it would have surely been in the imperfect tense:  ‘I have decided over and over again, to follow Jesus’.

And I think that its worth focusing on these imperfect tenses a little bit more and a little bit more often, because it reaffirms who we are and what we’re about.  Works in progress that we are. People who have to make the choices again and again and again to say Yes to loving God and to say yes to loving others.

I hope at the end of my life there are certain things that can be said about me, making excellent use of the imperfect tense.

I hope that it can be said of me that I chose to love my husband, my kids, my friends. my extended family, and my co-workers and neighbours, over and over again.

I hope it is mentioned that I continually said yes to God – however that looked (knowing that it always looks different for everyone).

I hope that someone acknowledges that I did decide to follow Jesus, over and over again.

And have you been wondering why this whole imperfect tense business is called ‘imperfect’?  Simply, it’s because something that is imperfect is something that is not yet finished.

I have chosen to say yes to following God, but there will be more opportunities for more of those ‘yes’ agreements to come.

These continuous actions are not yet completed.

I have decided to follow Jesus, and there’s more following to come.

The verbs, these doing words that give us the greatest amount of joy, and teach us the most important things, they are actions that are not yet completed.  And this for me as a Christ-follower gives me such breadth and scope for growth and development and potential.  The actions are not yet completed, not over and done with yet, therefore not perfect.

Perfectly imperfect.  That’s me.  And that’s you. Bring on more of it!

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In the resting.

If you’ve read any of my stuff, at any time, you’ll know I write for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes I write to process feelings and thoughts.  Sometimes what comes from my computer are words specifically for someone(s) – I may not have my brave pants on to say the words in person, so I send the words out there into cyberspace, wishing and praying for that one specific person/ people to read what I write and be encouraged.  At other times I write because I just have to share whatever it is I’ve just discovered, or been taught. And there are times where I write to remind myself to do x,y, or z and to be x, y,z.

The following blog post is a bit of a mixture of all of the above.  As always – I’m the first to say I don’t have ‘it altogether’, I’m a massive work in progress, but I’m privy to enough good wisdom around me to know what I should be/ could be/am trying to be doing, and would be doing it all the more, were it not for some of the realities of my life. And so. Here ’tis.  Another of my crazy analogies.  From the Queen of weird analogies. To you.

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One of my jobs is in the field of hospitality/ customer service.  We have on the menu, ‘Yorkshire Puddings’.  Yorkshires, or ‘yorkies’ as we call them, are very similar to the American ‘Popover’, or ‘Dutch Baby’.  Basically they are a batter that has been cooked in muffin trays for individual servings or a larger dish for one big serving, resulting in a puffed up pancake type thing.  People eat them as a savoury side dish, with gravy and roast meat and vegetables, and some eat them as a sweet dish with jam or custard.

I can’t eat the yorkies we serve at my work, being the glutard (coeliac) that I am. When they are fresh out of the oven, they always smell really amazing and most nights they fly out of the door.  Yorkies have only a few simple ingredients – eggs, flour and milk, and some recipes call for water. These are whisked together, the mixture then rests for a while, before going into a hot oven, in pre-heated oiled muffin trays.  They puff up as they cook and when they come out, each yorkie is an individual.  No two yorkies look the same.

I was thinking about how fun these little things are.  Ridiculously simple too.  And I was thinking about every step in the process of making them, and I got stuck on the whole ‘resting’ the batter business.

Resting.

Rest.

Apparently it is a big deal with cooking some things.  We’re always resting big bits of meat after cooking them.  That’s important.  And with all batters, resting is also recommended.  So I looked into the science behind it.  Turns out that during the resting of batters the starch molecules in the flour are absorbing the liquid in the batter.  This causes them to swell, giving  the batter a more viscous consistency.  Air bubbles are also slowly working their way out.  The resting step also ensures a thin and uniform structure to the finished good.  And, because the gluten in it has had time to relax, the texture is more delicate instead of chewy.

When batter is resting, to the naked eye, nothing is happening.

But important things, good things, are happening to the basic structure, the cell structure of the mix when it is resting.

Because of what happens in the resting phase, the end result after the cooking, is improved.

We all know that rest for US is important. I know it.  You know it.  But why?

I would say it is because of what is going on, when it looks like nothing is going on.

I think people tend to think of rest for themselves as a lack of activity.  Watching tv is resting.  Playing on the computer is resting.  Flicking through your facebook feed is resting. Napping, sleeping and just sitting. Resting, resting and resting.

Yes. Well maybe.

But there’s more to rest than that I reckon.

To me, resting is the opposite of striving. It is not putting in any effort – a batter doesn’t have to do anything to rest, it just is.  The science behind it, does the work.  And I think God can do some of His best work in us when we’re resting.  When we’re not striving.  But we’re simply being. Encouraging soul ties can happen.  Strengthening happens.  Reassurances.  Realignments occur.  Necessary corrections are made.  These things can happen when we’re at our most relaxed – when we’re not striving. When we’re socializing, but it is with people we can just be ourselves with.  When we’re reading and it is simply for enjoyment.  We’re studying His word because that feeds us truth and hope.  We’re worshiping, and we’re engaging grateful hearts.  We’re enjoying His creation.  We’re out and about just appreciating the wonderful world we live in. What is restful for you, may not be restful for me – because we’re all uniquely made and we get depleted in different ways and then refreshed in different ways. The ‘how’ isn’t as important as the actual doing.

We need to fill our emotional tanks and our spiritual tanks, in whatever ways work for us, because we’re leaky people and we’re going to come into situations of extreme heat -at some point – but we can come out of those situations better formed.  Better transformed.  We can have solid cores.  We can be a bit more useful, when we’ve had some rest.

We rest, before the pressure is applied.

We rest, because our DNA structure requires it.

We rest, because it is more than just a good idea.

We rest, because of what is happening when it looks like nothing is happening.

We’re now fully in the holy days of Advent.  As we go about our days and we’re choosing to buy presents, and be present, and we’re wrapping gifts or wrapping people in hugs, as we send gifts and send love, as we shop for and donate food, as we make cookies and memories side by side, let’s remember to rest before the heat is applied.

Let’s prepare our hearts and minds for the pressures that come with this busy season, by resting – however that looks for you.  Whenever, it happens for you.  Let’s rest.

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