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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No, I’m not a stalker. But.

I love watching people.  I’m a people watcher from way back.  I may look all busy and all preoccupied, but that’s all part of my deep cover.  I’m watching.  And I’m listening. Seriously, despite how it sounds, its not a stalker thing at all, I just watch and listen to learn because I have so much to learn, from you.  And from everyone.

Anyway.

Recently I was sitting at an event where I noticed that the people there seemed to be listening really intently to what was being spoken. And they seemed to be leaning in, a little more earnestly than normal. And it was all very captivating.

What was being spoken all centered around ‘story’, specifically God stories, and it reminded me of how much people love stories and how we all appreciate it when people can and do share a little piece of their hearts with us, and it made me start to wonder about how God stories come about.  What are the essential ingredients to God stories?  Whether they are past, current or ongoing/ unfolding God stories- what is needed for them to exist?  Well that’s kind of a round-about thing isn’t it?  Because I believe they are constantly forming around us, because God is constantly there.  He’s already in our todays, as He was in our yesterdays and we have a blessed assurance that He’ll be in our tomorrows.  But what’s the thing that makes something that He’s doing in and through us, into something worth sharing, something that highlights just how powerful He is and can be an living, breathing example of his lavish love and grace for us?

I believe one of those things is ‘noticing’.

Noticing.  Having eyes to see. I’m learning that it’s not rocket science.  It is something we can all do. Noticing that God is at work.  Noticing needs around us.  Noticing where we can make a difference.  But this ‘noticing’, it really helps if it is paired with some action.

My Jesus was one who noticed things.  While walking with his buddies in a massive swell of people, he noticed when a lady who really needed healing, touched the edge of his garment.  He noticed her need, her desperation.  He noticed her plea, and he responded.  He spoke to her, and healed her.

When Jesus made a personal visit to a friend’s house, He noticed who was intent on just sitting and being with Him. He also noticed who was running around like a headless chicken to do all the work, and He responded.  And He suggested that she take a bit of a chill pill and learn what it is to just be.  (Something we can all do better at?) (Paraphrasing all totally mine).

Noticing and doing.  Seeing a need, a desire, something that needed to change, and this was accompanied by an action.  Jesus was constantly doing this, and I think we’re called to do the same.

When I lift my eyes up and above my own circumstances and forget about the things that wear me out and weigh me down, that’s when I start to notice things that I think may make a tiny difference in someone else’s life.

The other day I was walking from my office space to the post office, something I do at least twice a week, and on this particular occasion I happened to notice that the little cafe I walk past was closed.  ‘Weird’ I thought to myself, as that little place is always open in normal work hours.  The next time I was walking by I popped in to say hi to the owner of the cafe, and I casually asked her why she had been closed.  Well that prompted quite the flow of information involving her beloved dog, a gross medical condition (for the dog, not the owner) and an operation (once again, for the dog, not the owner).  It only took a few minutes out of my day, but it opened up a whole new avenue, because you know what I did the very next time I walked past?  Of course I stopped by to ask how the dog was recovering.  And now I have a point of contact where conversation can flow from that initial noticing.

Now I’m the first to admit that my people skills are ever-evolving and I miss so many opportunities in front of me, because I’m too engrossed in my own life or I’m too tired to respond to situations – but I’m praying that God will make my eyes ever alert to things I should be noticing – because that’s where heart connections are made and that’s where His spotlight of hope and fingerprints of grace can leave real soul-deep prints.  How do I know this? Because of how I’ve felt when others have noticed something in me.

I know what it is when I’ve received encouragement at just the right time.  Or when something I’ve said or done has meant something to someone else.  Once again – it’s never rocket science.  It doesn’t always have to be deep and meaningful, only sincere and honest.  Just two days ago a friend of mine mentioned to me in passing that she’d thought of me that morning.  She’d been reading a news article about student loans, and she’d thought of me and of the fact I’m working hard to do something about my loan.  It wasn’t a gushy statement, it wasn’t flowery and accompanied by rainbows and unicorns, it was simply a ‘I see you, I notice you’ and accompanied by an ‘I’m going to acknowledge you’. And flip.  That really meant something to me then, and it still means something to me now, and I have a sneaky suspicion it will mean something to me for a while.

Noticing and doing.

It goes a long way.  It creates God stories – because it shows God as the Hero.  I’m positive that God prompted me to look up and at the ‘closed’ sign on that cafe as I walked past it the other day, and He prompted me to step inside and initiate that wee conversation with the owner.  In my own strength I’d much rather be thinking of what I next needed to be doing.  Or wanting a coffee.  Yes, coffee.  And it was God who plopped my name in my friend’s mind while she was reading that article, and it was God who prompted her to just give me that wee bit of encouragement.  She could have talked to so many other people at that time, yet it was me she was chatting to and me that was on her mind.

Noticing and doing.  Let’s be noticers and doers.  That’s gonna prompt some more stories, and who doesn’t like a good story?

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That was then, this is now.

Joshua erected a monument at The Gilgal, using the twelve stones that they had taken from the Jordan. And then he told the People of Israel, “In the days to come, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What are these stones doing here?’ tell your children this: ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry ground.’

23-24 “Yes, God, your God, dried up the Jordan’s waters for you until you had crossed, just as God, your God, did at the Red Sea, which had dried up before us until we had crossed. This was so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God’s rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always. – The Message Translation, Joshua 4: 20 – 24.

The church we were a part of when we lived in America has a feature of a  bunch of rocks by its front entrance, with the above accompanying description (they use a different translation though).  The rocks are a visual reminder of God’s rescuing hand.  The rocks are a reminder of God’s stories in our lives.  The rocks are there to urge others; to urge us all, to tell our God stories, to share our God stories.

I don’t have a big ole pile of rocks by my front entrance at my home now.  Nope.  Don’t think the landlords would entirely approve of that.  But I do see this here blogeroo of mine as a ‘rock formation’ of sorts;  these are things my God has done for me, this is how I know I am loved beyond measure, and I have hope for every situation.

When I was in my teens and twenties I was able to attend a lot of leadership training and conferences and the like, and a common theme or idea that often came through in these sessions, was the fact that your stories needed to be ‘new’ and ‘relevant’.  Up to date and from your current life.  So yeah.  Current and up to date was what I looked for,  and somehow along the way it became a little too easy to begrudge or to belittle the stories of my yesterdays.

But lately I’ve been realizing that our stories of our last weeks and our last months, and of our last years and our last decades, are just as valuable as those stories of our today’s. Don’t you think that the temptation is there to often think that those stories from our yesterdays are done and dusted with? Finito.  The end. Book closed.  But actually……no……I think that God has a sneaky way of bringing our stories from then into our lives of today. And along with that is the fact and the blessing, that thankfully He can bring healing to very hurt places, over a time-frame known only to Him.  He’s that omnipotent.  And He’s that omnipresent.

In a blog post a while ago I mentioned the fact that there’s a building here in Auckland that I didn’t like to drive past. Or even think about.  It brought back sad memories of a time in our lives where we faced great loss and experienced a lot of heartache.  But. And this is a big God but.  Just yesterday I was with some people and they were describing a part of Auckland and I realised it was exactly the area in which my aforementioned dreaded building is.  And you know what?  My heartbeat didn’t change tempo at all.  My mind didn’t race to flashbacks.  And I can honestly say that it was well with my soul.  Only now, twelve years on from my experience in that building, with much more of life experienced, I now can know that God’s gentle gluing of my heart back together is complete – with regards to that experience of grief.  That particular story of mine didn’t end when we threw out the dead flowers all those years ago, and it didn’t end when I put words to feelings and began to write of that journey, and it won’t end now that I know I don’t have to deal with fearful memories any more.  But it is a continually evolving and living story of God’s presence throughout pain and of His faithfulness.

You see that particular story of mine matters.

And the many other stories of mine, matter.  Just like your story matters.

Who you are matters.  Where you’ve come from.  What has shaped you.  The choices you’ve made.  The things that make you smile from ear to ear and belly laugh deep down.  The things that make you tear up and whether you put on a brave face, or allow those tears to escape, those things matter. Because the God I know and serve is a God who is faithful.  He’s powerful. He’s not finished with you yet, and He is certainly not finished with me yet. Your stories matter.  Our stories matter.

I’ve suspect I’ve got more stories to tell from my yesterdays and my today’s.  And I’ll continue to do my best to shine a spotlight on Jesus.

Joshua built a monument of rocks from the Jordan River to remind the Israelites of God’s faithfulness, of  God’s rescuing hand being strong.  You see there’s nothing about me that makes me any more special than you – you’ve got stories to share too. What story can you share and to whom, as a living monument of God’s faithfulness? We get to do that. We really do.

A photo by Austin Neill. unsplash.com/photos/ZahNAl_Ic3o

 

 

 

 

 

Stubborn is as stubborn does.

I’m pretty sure that this isn’t such a great thing to be particularly proud of, but as far as being stubborn goes, I’m up there in the leading rankings of high levels of stubbornness present. Anyone else with me on the leader board?

I am a Queen of Stubborn.

Strongly, fiercely independent, combined with a splash of stroppy, mixed together to make a good, strong batch of stubborn.That’s me.

I’m the type of stubborn that refused to get my drivers licence until I was thirty, when I had moved to a different country, with two little children (and preggers with number three) I discovered that walking everywhere was no longer an option.  Then I had to learn to drive on the other side of the road.  Some may have said ‘that’ll learn me’. And maybe it did.  But maybe it didn’t.

How and why I came to be so stubborn is really a story for another day. I don’t have enough chocolate in my house right now, to deal with that. But I am who I am.

Stubbornness ain’t all that bad though. My stubbornness worked in my favour when I was sent from medical specialist to specialist, and came away from all CT scans and MRI scans with nothing abnormal jumping out at us, but finally, after a three year journey I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder.  There’s a lot to be said for persistence and not settling for less than what you think is right. That’s stubbornness put to good use.

I have to be careful though, not to let this stubborn streak of mine make me miss opportunities that I shouldn’t miss, or not to let this stubborn streak of mine make my heart less malleable than it should be.  A soft and tender heart is what I always hope to hold onto.

I’m learning that there are a few things that I can do to help reign in this ‘stubborn’. Because if I’m not careful, sometimes this ‘stubborn’ can stop me from embracing a whole bunch of opportunities and experiences.

I’m learning that just because I may see myself as being x, y or z, I have to also remember that I don’t know what I don’t know.  While my filter on who I think I am may be reasonably accurate, its probably not quite as accurate as how close friends would see me, and of how God sees me.

As much as I talked in my last blog post about ‘who do we say God is’, and how that shapes how we outwork our faith, I think we also need to ask the question ‘who do you (God) say I am?’.  When we pause to ask that question, and really take on board the answers that come our way, I think we can all be pleasantly surprised.  We don’t know what we don’t know, so sometimes we need to ask a lot of questions.

In addition to asking God to reveal more of who He says we are, I’m learning to ask the right questions to the right people around me. Is what I think about x,y,z ok?  Does it line up with other things in my life? Allowing others to speak into my life means I have to take the time to take things on board, and to process things if they aren’t what I’d naturally think myself.  And for a stubborn chick, this is hard work, but oh so worthwhile.  You see, like I said before, we don’t know what we don’t know.

So how do you know you’re listening to the right people?  When you’re a person who is pretty strong minded to start with, how do you open your heart and mind to receive good and worthwhile advice and help?  I say look at the fruit in other people’s lives.  That’s my benchmark. Is the way this person lives, something I’d like to be emulating?  Do others respect them and speak highly of them?  Do I long to be closer to God because of their influence in my life?  If yes – then I know I need to put aside my own stubborn thoughts and opinions, breath deeply and listen intently to whatever it is they have to say on a situation that I may need swaying on.

Proverbs 1:5  talks about the importance of getting advice from others: let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.  Guidance is a good and necessary thing.  We are so much better together.  

So this is my prayer as one who knows she’s as stubborn as they come: may my heart and mind be steadfast and sure because I know without a doubt who I am in Christ and whose I am, but may that ever be growing. And may I always be looking for Godly wisdom from God himself and from others who love Him.  May my heart always be pliable, able to be stretched and ever increasing in capacity.  And may I always stop to consider that there’s much I don’t know, and we just don’t know what we don’t know.

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Dot to dot.

I used to like those dot to dot pictures. You know the ones – when little ones are practicing those early numeracy skills and they draw those wobbly pencil lines from number to number and those lines eventually reveal a picture. Dot to dots are cool.

I like dot to dots in real life too. Those times when you can take a step back from a situation for a minute, and see that you think a certain way, because of what you thought about another thing. One thing led to another.

This week the ministry my husband works for is holding their annual appeal. A massive chunk (between 80 and 90%) of their income is based purely on people’s donations, and once a year they have to make that ask, that appeal, for continued and new financial support. Here’s a random fact for you: typically less than 5% of all viewers (of a Christian tv station) or listeners (of a Christian radio station) will give financially to that ministry. This week is not my favourite week in the world. It’s humbling and hard in lots of ways, but unavoidable. But here we are, in that week. Last night the on air presenters were talking about how research shows that a major barrier to people giving to any charity or ministry is fear. Fear that if they were to give, then they wouldn’t have money for x,y, or z. And that can be a very real fear in a lot of ways. But if you have that fear, then you can’t truly believe that God can and will provide for your every need. You can’t believe that God says we’re not to worry about what to wear, or what we have to put in our stomachs.

Dot to dot. Your responses to situations and your actions are a direct result of what you believe.

I popped by a friend’s class today just when she happened to be student free. Written in big, bold words at the front of her classroom are the words ‘Who do you say I am?’.

Dot to dot.

The gospels (the first four books of the New Testament part of the bible) records Jesus as saying these words to Peter; ‘Who do you say I am?’.

You see I reckon that how we see Jesus, who we say He is, pretty much decides what our faith looks like when it is lived out.
And this ‘who we say God is’ also determines what our fears look like.

It’s hard to be fearful of sickness when we say that God is our healer.
It’s hard to be ashamed of past mistakes when we say that God has forgiven us and remembers not.
It’s hard to be downcast when we say that God can give us fullness of joy.
It’s hard to feel unlovely, when we say that God loves us with an everlasting love.

Dot to dot. One thing leads to another.

I don’t know about you, but my negative internal voices sometimes run off and have themselves a wee tea-party in the corner of my heart. But I’m discovering that when I come back to this one point,’Who do you say I am?’, when I re-frame how I see God, when I re position my true north on who God is and all He sees in me, then I find that fear and worry dissipate. Certainty replaces uncertainty. Peace replaces distress.

The next time you’re facing something that’s making you question your abilities or where you fit in this big wide world, or you’re fretting about something that the future holds, then do this simple thing. Move from that ‘dot’, back another ‘dot’, and answer that question once again for yourself. ‘Who do you say I am’ – Jesus.

And I think you’ll just find those dots to dots can indeed form a beautiful picture – your life, crafted by the Master Potter, Jesus.

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Take a meal – make someone’s day.

Tonight, as I munched my way through a really delicious dinner made for my family by a dear friend of mine, I started thinking some big thoughts.

Always a dangerous thing.

To some, the idea of having someone else cook you a meal (when you’re not ordering through a speaker or seated at a table somewhere other than home) is a completely foreign idea.

What’s wrong with ya?  Pull yer socks up.  Can’t you do that simple task for your family?

Well, to answer your questions that I’m sure are floating around your head, if they weren’t already they will be by the power of suggestion….nothing is wrong with me.  I’m as good as gold thanks.  I have just finished my five days/nights of working the job I do to pay our bills, and one of my kids is not well and has spent the last three days curled up, asleep in a blanket on the floor/ sofa/carseat, and my much better half is kinda missing in action at the moment with a lot of work stuff on the go at the moment. (And by the way, if your sick kid who has not eaten more than a bite or two in two and a half days, asks you for a cream donut, by golly you go to three lunchbars in the hope of finding him that aforementioned cream donut and you thank Jesus for the plethora of lunchbar options close to where you are.) But I am perfectly capable of cooking my family a meal.  And, here’s the thing;  today I didn’t have to.  Today I was given the gift of time and was able to take care of some other jobs as well as have a little bit of down time and catch my breath a little.

Today, because of someone else’s thoughtfulness I was able to just have a little breather.

And wouldn’t we all like to be able to give others a chance to do the same, when the rubber hits the road for them?

Not every person reading this shares the same faith as me, but I love that you still read this.  I love that no matter what spiritual journey you’re on,  I know that you truly care about others.  You all desperately hate it when loved ones are facing real struggles, when the diagnosis comes out of the blue, the diagnosis that shakes you to the core. You all hurt when others hurt.  You want to take the physical pain away, but there’s not much you can do.  You feel helpless.  You feel inadequate.

Just remember that there is one thing you can do when life is tricksy for others – take them a meal.  Just like I had my dinner made for me tonight.

Here’s a wee something I know to be true from both being on the receiving end of a blessing and of giving such blessings away:

Don’t ever under-estimate the depth and breadth of meaning that the gift of a ready-prepared meal can bring to someone.  

You see its not really about the actual food.

And its not really about the presentation of the meal.

And its certainly not about the amount of money spent on the meal.  (Most times, simple cheaper food is just as yummy as more expensive meals).

Its about the fact that someone took time out of their (most likely) very full day to think about you.  To think about what could possibly make your life just a little bit easier, just a little bit happier.

 Gosh darn it, someone cared about you.

And that my friends is one of the things that really matters in life.  Caring for others.  Being Jesus with skin on.  Again, I turn to Pete Greig’s powerful words ‘Sometimes it’s not enough to tell a suffering friend you’re praying for them. sometimes you have to become the answer to your own prayer’.  

Take a meal – and I guarantee that you will make someone’s day. And in doing so – you just may make your day.

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Incredible.

I’m been thinking just lately about how super proud of my boys I am. The larakins are now aged 6, 10 and 14, and before you utter a wee groan and think this is going to become a bragging post, hold on a ‘mo. It ain’t. While I’m seeing more and more signs of who my boys really are,  I know I have a whole heap still to learn and experience as the years go by,  and I know there are many ups and downs to come.But at the moment,  I’m  very grateful for these glimpses of them that bring me much joy.

I think that when children are small, it’s the things they do that make us proud. The first time they crawl. The first attempt at walking. The first word. The first book they read aloud. We ooh and we aah over their milestones reached and achievements made, but as they get older, it’s the things that reveal their character that really make us clap and cheer.

I’ve been thinking lately that as an adult it is really easy to go through life and loose sight of the things in us that actually bring joy to others. I wonder if we fail to recognize glimpses of our character that are revealed by our actions, because our focus is often on what we’re not doing right?  What we could do better at.  What we’re not achieving.

I thought I was a fairly confident person until just recently when I sat back in a certain situation and realized just how intimated I felt and was actually counting up the number of things I was sucking at.

Something in me makes me think that maybe I’m not the only one in the world who does this, and I needed this little reminder; in the same way that it makes my heart burst when I see evidence of good hearts in my boys, I think our creator, my Lord, is just watching and happily bursting with pride as He takes in all that we do, and more importantly all that we are.

These lyrics from a song by Matthew West are so powerful, and they really sum things up for me:
When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home
When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended

I look at things I do/say/ am, and I’m tempted to think ‘stuffed up there’.  But God doesn’t.  You see he’s not finished with us yet, and He does see healing beyond belief.  He does see something good in the making. We are works in progress – His works in progress.

Our children bring us great joy, and I think we could all do well to live with the reminder that we actually do bring great joy to God.

I made a cake for a friend this week, and because I can see many ways in which this person adds value to others and is amazingly multi-talented, I decided to go with a ‘Mr Incredible’ theme for the cake.  ‘Happy Birthday Mr Incredible’.  I just googled the root word for ‘incredible’, and it is the latin word ‘credere’ – to believe.  So to be incredible, is to be unbelievable, and to be incredible is also to be out of the ordinary.

 When we live in a such a way that our lives display the work of Christ in and through us, we are being incredible.  We are being out of the ordinary.  And this out of the ordinary business – it actually shines a massive spotlight on God’s goodness. It shows what He is capable of. It highlights His creativity. His power to transform.

Sometimes we forget that some out of those seemingly ordinary things we do, actually can speak very loud and wide to others around us.

My friends that repeatedly open up their hearts and their homes to foster children.
Another friend whose faith remains strong and steadfast, in the face of a lot of uncertainty surrounding her.

The customer who takes the time to actually look at the person serving them, and to inquire about their day with genuine interest.

The quick text someone sends to a friend, to show they are thinking of them, they care about whatever it is that is going on in their world.

When our inner world, dictates whatever it is that we do in our outer world, that could possibly  build others up, that shows a speckle of love or hope or compassion, that’s simply out of the ordinary. Because, let’s face it, by nature we’re all pretty selfish beasts.  And by nature our worlds can become pretty small and pretty insular.

So, at the risk of sounding really corny, heck I’ll go there anywhere, I know I’m so proud of my people, all over the world, who are just doing the stuff.  All the stuff.  Whatever it is they think they are called to do,  going out and loving more and  loving deeper and loving fiercer.  And I reckon that our God is even more proud.  Maybe we could do well to remember this thought when we are tempted to focus on all we’re not doing well.

Our God is so proud of us. I really do believe that He’s the most proud parent of all.

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