The tightrope and the juggling.

It was one of the cooler mornings that we’ve had recently.  We sat there, hands cupping our coffees, tucked into the corner of one of my fav little cafes in the area.  First came coffee, both of us had just rushed around doing the mad school dash.  Then came the standard going through the mental checklist – husbands, kids, jobs….how are they all?

Twenty minutes later after we’d both assured each other of health and general happiness, the wealth was still to come though…Liz sank down deeper into her chair, momentarily closed her eyes and and then I saw her whole chest rise up and down, as she took some deep breaths.  ‘Fee’.  Her voice faltered a little and I could tell things were fast changing gear.  ‘It’s hard’, she whispered.

I leaned forward, and took one of her hands, the one that was mindlessly twisting her rings around and around.  Knowing that Liz is one of those dear friends who listens really well and prefers not to speak unless she’s got something really meaningful to say, I knew this was big for her.  Gutsy.  Brave.

She looked up from her coffee cup and gave a half smile. That reminder she gives from time to time when conversation does get deep, as if she’s declaring her own strength to the world and doesn’t want me to worry; ‘yeah I’m sad and this is hard, but I’m going to be OK’.

I smiled back, and released her hand so it could go back to the endless twisting and twisting.  ‘Tell me about it’.  I whispered back.

Liz is facing some major challenges at the moment, that much I knew.  I know some of the details of the challenges of her life, but there are many details I don’t know.  Her story is only hers to tell, but I do have her permission to share this much today.

A couple of tears managed to sneak out of Liz’s eyes, and just as soon as they appeared, Liz swiftly wiped them away.

‘I feel like I’m on a tightrope, and I have to place my feet so carefully on this tightrope. It’s the only way over, the only way across the danger; the hurt and the hard.  I can’t go backwards, and if I stand still for too long….well I can’t…..I have to go forward. And I don’t even know where this tightrope ends. And that’s a frustrating thing.  Most people can see what the end goal is, where they are headed.  But I don’t.  I just have to keep going.  And not only am I on this dangerous tightrope, but as I’m walking it, I’m juggling all these balls.  These demands on my life.  Walk, walk, walk, juggle juggle, juggle.  That’s what my life feels reduced to’.

And in an instant I understood.  Liz was being very real and open about the weight of expectations on her.  The things said and unsaid, the lists of thou shalts and thou shalt not…..sometimes even from the most and best meaningful of intentions.  Because Liz was facing x y and z in her life, by hook or by crook she needed to react in a b and c ways.  That was how she needed to be, that was what it felt like to her.

I nodded in agreement and understanding.  I’ve had my own share of balls to juggle and fear of dropping them.  Haven’t we all?  I didn’t and couldn’t think of anything more helpful or caring to say, right then and there, other than, ‘I know’, and by then, Liz, realizing that the chinks in her armour, the armour she wears to enable herself to function as best as she can right now, had started to show, was embarrassed at being the focus of our attention, and what was left of our quick coffee catch up quickly moved on to other things.

Well the conversation moved on then.  But my thoughts have kept coming back to Liz’s picture.  Trying to understand. Trying to think of how some glimpses of hope can be offered to her.  Trying to gather some truth for her.

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Tightropes are do-able.  They are not impossible.  Hard, yes.  But not impossible.  Thinking back to when I danced and even when I did gymnastics and did any kind of hard foot work like that – it helped when I looked up.  Looked ahead.  It keeps your centre of gravity in the right place to help most with balance.  So that’s what I’d tell Liz now.  Look up.  Keep looking up.  It doesn’t matter that you don’t know when or where this tightrope will end, just keep looking up.  Even if and when people place expectations on you – even when they are misdirected but well-meaning…keep looking up.  Keep seeing the good in their intentions.  Keep looking up to where your help really comes from.  Seek the Lord and All His goodness.

Another thing about tightropes is that it helps to have a supportive audience. The best circus performers have supportive audiences cheering them on.  They may be holding their breath, as they are nervous for the tightrope walker, but every single one of them is urging the person on.  No-one wants to see that person fall.  And so I’d remind Liz that she has people around her, urging her on.  They can’t walk the road that she’s on for her, they can’t do the hard work that she is needing to do, but they are with her, every step of the way, urging her on.  Feeling her pain.  Feeling her frustration.  But cheering her on.  As hard as it is for Liz to let people in, to share with them her pain, her hurt and all the messy feelings she has, that audience may well be her biggest ally in forward momentum, in helping her stay on that very narrow and flimsy path she’s on.  They can lend her their strength.  They can give her courage. They can remind her of who she really is, when circumstances around her try to steal that away from her.

How about the juggling balls?  We’re all juggling so much, all the time, aren’t we?  But here’s the thing…..circus performers don’t start off with all the items they have to juggle.  They have a few things, then they have more added to their performance, and then sometimes these items are taken away and/ or swapped out for other things…and then eventually, one by one, they catch every item they have and finish their routine.  I’m thinking that sometimes we forget that we can throw back some of the balls that we juggle.  We don’t have to always be juggling so much.  Sometimes we have the capacity to juggle more, and sometimes we don’t – it keeps our routines fresh that’s for sure.  The hard thing is to know what and when to throw away some of the balls/ items, right?  Without the whole routine not going completely out the window.  But its possible.  And  – what’s the worse that can happen?  We do drop some balls?  Even seamless circus performances can go badly wrong…..and what the audience doesn’t see are the hours and hours of practice put in, to make those performances as near perfect as possible.  We’re allowed to drop some balls from time to time if we give ourselves enough grace, and when we have the people around us, to either leave those balls by our side and urge us on anyway, or to helpfully hand them back to us, when the timing is right, and we can once again include those balls into our timetables and routines.

The tightrope, and the juggling…….not easy….not really much fun when so much energy and focus is needed…..but do-able my friend, dear Liz.  It’s do-able. Especially when you keep looking up, and you keep your biggest fans by your side.   It’s do-able my friend. xx

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The Naughty Little Sister (and leaning into hard)

I was a good kid.  I never got into trouble at school, I was always wanting to please all the teachers, all of the time.  I was also a good girl at home.  I was helpful, responsible, reliable and all of that.  ‘Naughty’ was just not done, in any way/ shape or form, apart from in the ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ books by Dorothy Hughes.  Gee I loved those books. I delighted in those stories. Maybe I secretly envied what the naughty little sister did.  I dunno.  But I do know I was a very good kid.

Apart from that one time.

That one time when I did do a very naughty thing.

A very naughty thing indeed.

I must have been seven, and my older sister was away at boarding school.  No this isn’t a common thing for us New Zealanders, this was when we were ‘Missionary Kids’ in Asia.  My sister was a couple of days’ train ride away from me and what was our home, but she’d left her precious little bottles of perfume behind.  Wise move on her part, so she thought. Keeping those items away from dormitory life.  But they weren’t away from her naughty little sister, were they? My not so wise move was to take those tiny little bottles  – that held massive meaning for her – and I added some water to them.  I thought I was doing her a favour.  I thought I was extending the life of those perfumes.  I thought I was making them go further.

Nope.  No I wasn’t. And yep. Was she mad.

Rightly so.

I knew I wasn’t supposed to touch her belongings.  But I did.  Naughty, naughty me.

You see seven year old me didn’t know that the act of diluting the perfume was in fact going to take away its strength. Its power.  To dilute is to make weaker in force, content or value by modification or the addition of other elements.

When something is diluted it is diminished. Reduced.  Decreased.  Lessened.  Quietened and Moderated.

Those aren’t very inspiring words.  Not things I’d like to aspire to in life in general.  Not life goals worth having.  And don’t you think that sometimes when the mundane in life tries to take over, and you find yourself in the hamster wheel of  doing same old, same old ‘life’, and actually you want to make the absolute most of whatever blessed life you’ve been given and whatever you have left ahead of you.  Sometimes you just get this fire in your belly, and you realize that you don’t want to live a life that is diminished. Reduced.  Decreased.  Lessened.  Quietened and Moderated. In any way.

Nope.

So what can you do?

From being around some good people, and from reading good books and from hearing people’s stories, the thing I keep hearing time and time again, about all of this ‘living your best life’ stuff is:  (buckle up friends, you may actually want to tap me on the head, with a hammer, over this one) you can’t shy away from hard things.  You must do hard things.

You must.  In whatever shape or form these hard things come into your life – whether you open the door to them, or they just barge right on in, uninvited, and then stay on and on and on, you can and must do these hard things.

Hard things……..are…………..hard.  Pain, grief and suffering.  Nothing can prepare for those things.  Nothing.  They push people to limits they didn’t even know existed, and then some.  People things are hard.  People are so…….peopleish.  Sickness is hard.  It is simply awful seeing someone you love in pain.  Relationships can be hard. The family unit can be hard. Financial problems can be hard.  Infertility.  Miscarriage. Job loss.  Addictions.  Hard hard hard hard.

Everyone on God’s green earth, at some point or another is going to, or has, or is currently facing something that is HARD.  And you’ve got two options with what to do with that situation, whatever that situation is.  One – you can run like the wind and you choose not to have that conversation.  Or make those changes.  Or seek that advice.  Or heal that wound.  Or two – you lean in to that hard.  Sometimes with teeth gritted, and chin thrust up, sometimes with tears and moaning and groaning.  And you deal with that hard, in the trenches, fighting the battle, sometimes fiercely, and sometimes with no energy to spare at all, but you face that hard.

Elisabeth Elliot said ‘Sometimes fear does not subside and one must choose to do it afraid’.  I think of my friend Treva when I read that quote.  She lost her husband nearly a year ago.  This first anniversary of Jeff’s passing will be extremely hard for Treva and her three children. But this is what she wrote just last week: ‘It’s a battle to trust the Lord, to keep my eyes focused, and to heal the hard stuff. But I am excited for our future. God has big plans and never leaves us alone’.  Treva has been real and raw and authentic as she’s allowed people to see her grieve. Follow her on instagram (trevalavonne) if you want to see what a brave and honest faith really looks like, in the face of adversity.  It’s been a huge privilege to see how she can be truly ok, in the midst of such heartache.  Paul in the bible says this: ‘God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us’ (2 Corinthians 1:4).  My friend Treva knows what it is like to have God as her rock, as her ever present comfort, because all else has been stripped away from her.  And as she’s been carried, in the hard times, she’s also been able to reach out and help others who are walking their own grief story.  That’s right, not even a year into her widowhood and she’s reaching out to others and speaking life and hope into them, because she’s not afraid to lean into the hard.

This leaning into the hard, this dealing with whatever curveballs come your way, why does it even matter?  (Especially when avoiding the hard is actually easier/ more convenient/sometimes cheaper/ less stressful). I think it matters because people in general have pretty astute crap-o-meters.  Most of us can tell the real deal from the fake, and the most respect I have and the most admiration possible, goes to those who can speak into my life from a place of ‘knowing’.  From a place of authenticity.  From a place of having walked the hard yards, they can hold genuine empathy for you and their encouragement is real. Those people – what they say really matters.  And it matters because, as a by-product of having gone through the hard, these people aren’t reducing themselves, or their God.  They aren’t diluting Him or His power.  They aren’t lessening or decreasing or moderating or quietening.  Quite the contrary. They are shining a spotlight on Him. On His power.  On His grace.  On the Hope we have in Him.

So, be encouraged.  Do the hard things.  Even if you’re doing them while kicking and screaming and stamping your feet like a petulant five year old. You’re still doing them.  Walk through those valleys, knowing you are not alone.  Make those connections.  Be that good friend.  Make that appointment.  Be that advocate.  Make that decision that gives you goosebumps.  Lean into God, and know that what you carry is strong, and powerful, a fragrance that is not diluted.

And one day, because you can speak from a place of authenticity and your story carries with it power, be encouraged that ‘the scars you share become lighthouses for the people who are headed for the same rocks you hit‘.

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Brave Wears Many Faces

I used to think that ‘brave’ was a term to be reserved and used only for those ‘stand out from the crowds, living on the very edge, facing life and death situations’ type of adventurers.  Those who aren’t afraid to put themselves in scary situations.  Along with those people, I’d add in ‘brave’ when describing all of those who find themselves thrust into situations where they or their families are in, (or have been in) harm’s way.  Maybe they’re facing a cancer diagnosis, maybe they have to spend hours walking the halls of the closest children’s hospital, maybe huge loss has ripped their family apart and they have to get used to a new normal.  Brave brave brave.  Courage courage courage.  That’s what ‘brave’ used to mean to me.

But lately I’ve been thinking that brave IS indeed all of that, plus much, much more.

Brave can be found in the every day, in the highs and lows of this blessed but messy life.

Brave can be applying for a job you don’t think you’re good enough for, you’re not qualified for, but you think that maybe you could learn.

Brave can be standing up for yourself when mean comments have been flying and all sensitivities have flown out the window.  (Courage originally meant to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart).

Brave can be looking your kids in the eye and saying ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that’.

Brave is sometimes just someone showing up, when everything in their world is crying out to them to hide, and to stay hidden.

Brave can be forcing yourself to be step up and out of your shyness to say hello to the new parent at school pick up.

Brave can be looking your cashier in the eye and asking how their day is going.

Brave can be giving a real answer, when someone asks you how you really are.

Brave can be asking for support.

Brave can be taking two minutes to fire off a text or an email, to call out the gold in someone, it is sometimes pushing past boundaries and potential stumbling blocks when you don’t know how it will be received.

I think that ‘brave’ isn’t really recognized as much as it could be, and I’m on a new quest to call out the brave in my children, in my spouse, in my friends and colleagues.  Because brave, when it is recognized, it tends to breed more ‘brave’.

Once you’ve done one thing and you can step back and see it for being gutsy, see it for being something that led you past your comfort zone, then the next time you need to do something just a little bit courageous, it is just that little bit easier.  It’s like you know you’ve done a little bit of brave, you can do a little bit more.  I think ‘brave’ builds stepping stones, upon which….heck…the impossible can be done.  Because it is made possible.  But it helps to have someone walk alongside you, someone to urge you on.  Someone who’s not afraid to whisper in your ear ‘what you did just then, it was brave’.  Because I don’t know anyone on God’s green earth who doesn’t want to be brave.  And we don’t always see it and recognize it for what it is, in ourselves.

I saw this in action last week when one of my kids needed to have a general anesthetic.  The anesthetist gave him the choice of having an IV line put in his hand, and then having the medication to make him go to sleep injected directly into the IV line, or he could have had the face mask put on him and he could have breathed in the gas to make him go to sleep. A short but painful prick in the hand, with a rather long needle, or a smelly mask forced over your face?  Hmmm. Tough choice.  My kid chose the needle and IV line, he chose the more painful option, because he didn’t want to feel any kind of struggle with the mask.   So his Dad and I told him, ‘you are brave, you can do this’.  ‘You are going to be ok’.  And he was ok.  He handled that big ole needle like a champ.  And then when I walked him to the operating theatre and he saw six gowned and masked people there all looking at him and waiting for him and his steps faltered, again I whispered into his ear, ‘you are brave, you can do this’.  And he did it.  He carried on walking to the bed, laid himself down and stuck his arm out for the medication to go to sleep.  He was so brave.  And if there’s ever a next time, he’s going to know he can do hard things like that.  He’s also got a new empathy for people who are seriously sick and even for people who have to deal with big needles all the time.  Brave grows us.  Brave enlarges our hearts.  Brave wears many different faces.

We need to recognize ‘brave’ and celebrate it.  Brave brings about change in us. Brave stretches us – and the most awful but the very best learning happens in the stretch. Brave is also contagious – how many times have you seen others do something that they didn’t think they could do, then you think, by golly, I can do that too.  And so you do.

 

“Courage is a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging.” – Brene Brown.

 

I really do think that brave wears many faces – let’s help each other to be braver by braving.  By braving together.

 

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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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The little girl.

You might think that the following blog post is extremely similar to blog posts I’ve posted in the past.  You would be right.  100% correct.

I wasn’t going to do this one.

I wasn’t.

And then I read three different things by three different people all along the same vein; your greatest ministry comes out of your greatest hurt. Whatever God brings you through.  He makes you a minister to.

And so.

I guess while I still have words of hope, maybe even words to help, words words words, I won’t stop.

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I have three amazing boys.  Son A looks very much like my better half.  So much so we still laugh about the time when my husband took a very young son A to the supermarket, the check-out chick remarked ‘how kind it was for him to take his little brother out with him’.

Somehow the years have passed (we really gotta stop blinking)  and Son A is now a teenager…… my husband is no longer as baby-faced looking as he was when Son A was a baby.  But they still look alike.

Sons B and C don’t look very similar to Son A, but they do look very alike to each other.  We can see both myself and my Spunky Hunk in them.  Its funny how that works.  You can definitely tell they are brothers.

A couple of days ago a little girl came in to where I work.  I looked at her and in an instant I saw features in her face that were very similar to all three of my sons.  It blew me away.  It is the weirdest thing to explain, but I saw this amazing mix of Sons A, B and C in her, and at that same instant the thought flew through my head, ‘she looks like what might have been’.

My ‘what might have been’ hasn’t been for a very long time now.  And I can say quite honestly that that’s ok. ‘What might have been’ is a part of my story and perhaps you have a similar story.  And that’s ok.  And while I’m not dwelling on the past, I’m taking this as a reminder and I’m grateful for it, that by golly we need to be so careful when we’re talking to people who are walking through the deepest of valleys.

While I know I don’t have any formal education on theological issues (I’ve got some friends who are and I’m sure they will correct me if I’m way off track),  I’m clued up enough to know there are some warped ideas out there regarding where God is when people hurt and how best to treat people in crisis.  And I’m sick and tired of seeing and hearing platitudes regarding the end result of or the reason why people have to endure hard things.

Quite honestly it hurts my heart that someone told my friend who was sitting in an ER with a very sick husband, that his chemo and his cancer was going to make them better people.

It hurts my heart that a fellow Mum at school will be having a mastectomy tomorrow which will then be followed by radiation treatment.  I would hope that no-one in her circle would say to her that God will make her even more beautiful. Yes I fully agree that beauty can come in and from ashes, but she was beautiful to start with.

It hurts my heart that some of my own extended family members lost a precious little boy after only six weeks of life outside of the womb.  I don’t think its a helpful thing to tell someone who is grieving that they need to focus on all the blessings they do have in their life.

I’m on a journey to be more of a support to people, whatever they are facing, but my own experiences of grief and loss and those I’ve had the privilege of being close to, those experiences tell me…….gently gently gently.  Softly softly softly.

You’re not necessarily a better person for having gone through something huge and horrible, because of the experience.   You may further develop some characteristics that you already had, but you were already a person who was worthy of being loved.  Unconditionally. You were already ‘better’.

I’d say to someone going through a hard time that ‘you’re already beautiful’. And you will get through this.  And you can take all the time in the world.  I’m sorry that this is a part of your story.  You didn’t need this.  But what I do know is this – that no matter what happens, no matter how hard things get, we are promised the assurance of God’s presence with us.  And this presence gives us Hope.  And this presence gives us Peace.  And this presence gives us reassurance when all around us is sinking.

Those are the things I would say.

I don’t have answers for when times are tough, but I do have hope.  And we need to be passing on the torch of hope.

 

Softly, softly.

 

Gently, gently.

 

I know I need these reminders from time to time.

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The Right Questions.

Have you ever been around someone who can very skilfully pry info out of you, without you even realizing just how much you’re sharing with them?

Some people are just better conversationalists than others. But I think that this ability to have better conversations, is something we can all learn to do, even if it means moving way out of our comfort zones.

Why should we even care about this?  Why should it even be on our radar? And I mean ‘we’ as a very broad, collective we. You, me, and anyone in our circles. Well for me, it comes down to caring. A very long time ago I was told that ‘people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care’. And part of caring for people is being interested in them, and part of being interested in people is asking them the right questions.

I believe that people are like onions. We all have layers. Layers upon layers. And it takes intentionality and skill, to dig through the layers in some people. Now some people will very happily shed their layers for you, some people are very open books. God bless ’em. Other people take little more digging, a little more prying and a little more time, to reveal the ‘gold’. For whatever reason, some people cling to their layers a little more tightly than others. And that’s ok.

Last week Darlene Zschech tweeted something her husband had said, in relation to building community. He said ‘everyone is interesting. You just haven’t asked the right questions’.

I love that, because I do believe that everyone has a story. Everyone is interesting if we just take the time to find out a little bit about them.

Recently I read this blog post here by a Krystal Masciale who was guest blogging on Phil Cooke’s blog. It gives some fantastic pointers on how to have better conversations, it highlights some great questions to ask others.

I think that we all do a better job at loving people, in being there for people, when we ask better questions. We can be better leaders, bosses, family members and friends when we show genuine interest in others. Let’s go beyond the ‘hi, how was your week?’. Ya with me?

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With grace kissed cheeks.

Rose-tinted glasses aren’t for everyone.  I’d prefer to try to have a fairly balanced, feet firmly planted on the ground, perspective on things.  Especially on things concerning the world of me, myself and I.  I thought I had a pretty good, a very realistic handle on my talents and abilities, limitations, giftings and failings.  I thought I did.

Then Love swooped down.

Why is it so much easier to look at the character traits in our children and people close to us, and although we may not always appreciate these traits at face value, we can see how they can be flipped and used for good, than to possibly say the same for us?

The bossy kid.  That’s leadership ability.

The stubborn child.  Well they won’t be easily swayed.

But in myself?  Well the negative, the lack, the gap between who I am and who I’d like to be, that’s always a bad thing. Always a sticking point.  Always a thing to block, ignore or explain away.

Until Love swoops down, kneels gently beside us, and grace kisses us on the cheeks.

I’ve been swept upon.  I’ve been blown away.  Regarding two separate specifics, who I thought I was, who I declared I wasn’t, they have been completely turned around.  I’ve been corrected and re-aligned, as only a Father with the very gentlest of touches can do.  This is the way, walk ye in it.  No longer shall you limit yourself in these ways.

You may be in a similar place to where I was.  Loudly proclaiming that there’s no way you could do x, y or z.  That’s not your gifting.  You’re not able to do that.  Or this part of you that others see as a negative thing, a hindering thing, is a stumbling block for you.

But maybe, God’s just waiting, lingering, hovering close, until you need to know that actually yes, your limitations are sometimes of your own doing.  And then, if you make room for him, then He’ll swoop down, and give you grace for the journey, grace for the task, grace for your own lack of ability, and He’ll make what you thought was impossible simply possible…..

And with that re-alignment comes a new confidence.  Because you know you’re not operating out of self and all that you know you can or cannot do – but what He is equipping you to do.  The path of obedience can be walked in confidence because God is leading the way, lighting the path in the dark places, and you can walk this new path with head held high because you are no longer a slave to fear and your own very cheeks, they have been kissed with grace.

fionacharis.com

Branded

Night falls early in these parts, so I imagine the deed was done early one evening.  The ‘deed’ being the scrawling of an ugly word with an even uglier meaning, onto the front of a car.  By scrawling I really mean scratching.  Leaving a permanent mark.

 I don’t know the victim of the ‘crime’ – the owner of the car at the time.  She obviously had upset someone.  Maybe a jealousy was playing out in a very real way.  Maybe it was a spiteful prank gone wrong.  I don’t know – but I do know this – she didn’t deserve to be branded in such a scarring way.

 We are now in possession of the aforementioned branded car.  A long time loan while its current owner is overseas.  I can’t help but notice the unpleasant word every time I get in or out of that car.  It looks very out-of-place the few times it has been parked at my boys’ school.  Their ‘private Christian College’ school.

 In the bible, in John 4, we read of a woman who was branded with the same word that appears on our car.  The Samaritan woman with a bit of ‘baggage’.  Jesus approached her at the well and asked her for some water.  Now this was not the common practice in that day at all – not common for a Jewish man to speak publicly to a woman, much less a Samaritan woman, and even less common to talk to a Samaritan woman with a past like hers.

 In his book ‘Powerful and free, confronting the glass ceiling for women in the church’, Danny Silk looks at this interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman and notes that ‘Not only does Jesus talk with her, but he also talks with her about theology – a topic expressly forbidden to discuss with women.  In one conversation, Jesus literally sliced through years of rabbinical law and cultural norms with the extreme love of God that sees the treasure in every human heart’.

 The people around the Samaritan woman would have had all manner of labels stuck on her.  All sorts of branding.  Yet Jesus was able to look into her eyes and see her simply as a child of God.  He saw in her purpose.  And hope. A future.

 He saw the treasure that is in every human heart.

 He looked past her past, and saw what she could be in her present.  And she did use that information he shared with her; the fact that he revealed his true identity as the Messiah for the first time, to her, she went back to her people and shared the good news with them.  She brought people to him.  There must have been some point in her thinking when she realized ‘if this man the Christ sees me, then I am worthy’, for her to have gone back to her people with enough confidence to share her story with them, to bring others to Him.  All it took was for her to see herself as the Lord saw her – worthy.  Daughter.  Beloved one.

 We all wear labels of some sort.  Some of these labels are positive, some are negative.  Some stop us from seeing ourselves as God sees us.  My husband and I have to look past the label on our car.  We know that this branding doesn’t affect how the car drives, its effectiveness in doing what it was designed to do.  We have to choose to not focus on the negative connotations of this label.  What if we all carried this on to every area of our lives?  To every dark and hidden corner of our hearts?  What if we all worked on trying to rip off every label that has been imposed upon us, by simply accepting the Father’s love for us.

 Jesus sees the treasure that is in every human heart.  We are his children.  What if we start walking in that?  What if we start living that out?  We are loved with an everlasting love.  We were created in His image.  I think it is time to start ripping those labels off – time to help your friends and relatives see themselves as God sees them.  Cherished.  Beloved.  Designed while we were in our Mother’s wombs for a purpose.

 I’m gonna start tearing off some self-imposed labels and others-imposed labels…..how about you? Are you in?