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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Hitching up yer big girl pants.

I learnt a lesson  the other day. And, like most lessons, this lesson was learnt the hard way. And I got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, someone out there in the interwebs may need this gentle wee reminder that I received as a result of my stoopid  valuable lesson.

My lesson started on a Tuesday. My Monday was great, fine, all good. Then Tuesday rocked along. And my week suddenly turned a corner. My Tuesday became a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. And then my week became a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

You see on the Tuesday someone asked me a question about a certain aspect of my life. And in that moment, with my reply, I chose to be a little vulnerable, and a lot honest, and I gave this friend of mine a candid and genuine answer. Which happened to be mixed with some negative feelings and some blinking back of some tears.

Now that’s not the cause of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day turned week…

Nope.

There’s great value in being raw and real with people, and I didn’t regret sharing that piece of my heart with my friend.

Nope.

That was good. We need to share our burdens with our ‘people’. The less masks we walk around wearing, the better.

My terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week simply happened because I allowed my attitude to stink about a few things, following on from that initial conversation and carrying on for the rest of the week. Doesn’t matter what those things were because my life is such a random mix of responsibilities and obligations, joys and sorrows that whatever I had a ‘tude about will never be exactly the same as what your ‘tude may be, but you’ll find the principal is the same. If you dwell on the stink, and allow the stink to rob you of your joy, then, yep, you are gonna experience a spiral downwards. And that slippery slope ain’t pleasant.

So I’ve learnt there is a fine line between giving honest answers to friends, and showing them your real feelings regarding things, and then carrying on with holding onto those feelings and letting them have too big a stronghold in your life.

Life can’t be all sunshine and roses. Not all the time. Sometimes you may be in a situation where you may well feel fully justified to feel sorry for yourself. But I know, that I know, that I know, that often you can change a situation a whole bunch, by how your change your perspective of it. How you change your attitude. That whole attitude controlling your altitude business. You’ve probably heard all this a hundred times already. I know I have. But there’s nothing like getting a migraine from your stinkin’ thinking to remind you of how important this is.

So if you’re in the middle of a hard situation, if you’re feeling the squeeze between how you know you should be feeling and thinking and reacting (ie. positively) and what your situation is actually dictating to you….have a think on this…

……your situation may be stink, but you aren’t.

…..you do have a friend who can stick closer than a brother, right by your side.

…..most things in life are temporary…..all deep and dark tunnels have to end at some point and you have to be reunited with fresh air and real sunlight, at some point.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is to be honest with yourself, honest with some trusted friends, but then hitch up yer big girl pants, and face your problems, face your realities, head held high, chin up, teeth gritted if you must…..because you can do whatever it is you are called to do. You are not alone. You are equipped – as a Christ follower I believe I have certain tools at my disposal to help me in my everyday life…’truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation are more than words….God’s word is an indispensable weapon…..’. Grabbing a hold of all these things, when life is good and when life is bad…..gives ease to your journey.

There’s so much to be said for just hitching up yer big girl pants and dropping your ‘tude. The world is just more of a beautiful place. I lost sight of that during my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. I hope I don’t loose sight of that anytime soon.


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Fairy Tales and Real Life

Out there in the real world, the general consensus on ‘love’ is that fairy tale love rarely happens. By rarely I mean hardly ever. By hardly ever, I mean only in your dreams. By in your dreams, I mean only in books and movies which could possibly star Meg Ryan. By in books and movies, I really mean fairy tales.

Fairy tale love belongs only in fairy tales. Right?

Right.

Only. Actually. NOT RIGHT.

Nah.

Fairy tale love has a lot more in common with everyday, real life love stories I see all around me, than we may think. There are a number of similarities between real life love and fairy tale love….plus we have the gift of perspective. How you view your love story changes everything.

Let’s explore some of these similarities, before you think I’ve lost the plot and am living in LaLa land….

Fairy tales are intentional. The authors didn’t just sit down one day and out came words that flowed beautifully and then, voila, ten minutes later there’s a story that has a concrete beginning, middle and ending and by golly, there’s even a solid moral to the story in there too. No. That doesn’t happen. The authors would have taken days just shaping their stories, fine tuning the plots, developing characters, cleverly intertwining subplots into the body of their story.

Real love has to be intentional too. Intentional with facing things together, intentional with decision making together, intentional with outworking life’s aims and goals together. Intentional with seeing the best in each other and calling that out, breathing life into that. As fictional stories are very carefully crafted, so are real life love stories. They don’t just happen.

Fairy tales often feature in them royalty; princes, princesses, Kings and Queens. Nobility stars in a lot of fables. Last time I checked I wasn’t surrounded by real life members of the Royal Family of any country. But I have a little inkling, a little nudging in my heart that to see oneself as a member of the Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2: 9) helps a huge amount when entering into a happily ever after. It makes sense that the more you see yourself as a whole person, a complete person, God’s very special possession, called out of darkness into wonderful light, before you enter into marriage, the healthier and happier you’ll be. Have you seen the t shirts and wall placards reminding you to ‘always wear your invisible crown’, I truly believe that’s not just a neat saying but a very solid truth to build on.

Fairy tales often have very special and unique beginnings. A woodcutter boasting that his daughter can spin gold from straw. A penniless young girl selling matches on the street. The hatching of a very ugly duckling. These are all quite unique, original ways to start a story. And that’s a feature in real life happily ever afters. Have you ever noticed that when you ask a couple who are living out their happily ever after, how they first met, that’s usually immediately met with a smile and maybe even a giggle. And their story is retold with a lot of warmth. You see they know that beginning was special. They cherish that beginning. Happily ever afters look at their beginnings with much fondness. And I think that fondness is more often than not paired with a whole heap of gratefulness. A gratefulness for that beginning, for however unique it may have been, something lasting and very special has come out of it.

Fairy tales often feature in them universal truths. Sometimes they teach a lesson or demonstrate values important to a culture. I think a real life happily ever after does the same. A long term, committed and happy marriage clearly shows onlookers what is important to that couple. Patience. Forgiveness. Joy. Kindness. Self-control. Servant-hood. These are all things evident in someone’s happily ever after. Maybe not all of these things, all of the time, but snippets of these things, for the majority of the time.

Another feature of most fairy tales is that the happy endings are more often than not based on the resolution of conflict or problems. Basically ‘schtufff’ has to be worked through before there is any chance of a happily ever after.  True true true. Same same same in real life. There ain’t no happy marriage on this earth that ain’t never seen hard times. Ooh Lordy trouble so hard. But whatever that trouble may have looked like or have been, somehow by God’s grace and sometimes with the gritting of teeth and sheer willpower, that ‘schtufff’ has been worked through, those raging waters walked through, and while some marriages may bear scars, those scars tell a beautiful story of God’s fingerprints of grace at work.

As one gets older and as one gains a greater understanding of some of the darker and more grim sides to some of the classic fairy tales, sometimes one is reluctant to share these stories with a younger crowd. Some stories just simply don’t turn out the way we want them to. Sometimes we’re hoping for a real life happily ever after, but due to all sorts of things, that sometimes just doesn’t happen. If this is you, and you’re now filled with all sorts of regret, sadness, anger, grief, disappointment and heartache, I get it. Life is messy, hard and complex. But I’d like to give you a glimmer of hope. You’re a Prince or a Princess whether or not you have your Prince or Princess right beside you, right now. You can be healed and whole, right now. You are worthy. Fairy tales sometimes have a happily ever after, and sometimes they don’t, but that doesn’t take away anything from who the characters are and how much their creator has invested in them, how much care He has poured into them.

If you’re just beginning your happily ever after in real life, treasure what you have. Nurture what you have. See the best in each other. Speak highly of each other. Get to know your creator more, as your story is woven together, delicately, purposefully. And know that your happily ever after can be real. And it can be lasting.

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Today marks for me the anniversary of being 16 years into my happily ever after. People say that young couples have no idea what they are getting themselves into. And maybe some don’t, but we did. We signed up for a life of adventure, serving God together. Sure there have been curveballs along the way, life’s like that. But we’ve been blessed with unusual happiness and we’re living out our very own fairy tale, generously splattered with God’s grace. We don’t know what plots and twists our future chapters will feature in them; no doubt there will be times of blessings and hardships, but above all else there will be love.

Happy Anniversary to my Spunky Hunk. You make me a better person. I love you with all that I am.

 

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Layers. 

Sometimes winter lasts for a very long time. Winter with its iced mornings and bone-chilling winds. Winter that brings numbing of the extremities and dribbling noses and foggy breath. It is winter that requires us to wear layers upon layers.

The coldness of winter means we need layers for survival. Layers to keep us warm and as healthy as possible. I see layers as a form of self- preservation. Sometimes layers are the best and only option.

However long and arduous a winter may be, it doesn’t last forever. 

No matter how hard and fierce and piercing a winter may be, unless you live in Antarctica, winter is followed by spring, as surely as day follows night.

Sometimes we can be in a winter season in our life, and it may feel like it is lasting forever. It may be arduous, it may be bitter, it may be challenging on many fronts. But for every person, I truly believe that Spring can and does come. Not necessarily when we wish it, or hope for it, or sometimes even pray for it, but spring does come.

Here’s what I know about life in wintertime: sometimes you just need those layers.

Sometimes you need layers of self-protection in your life, sometimes you need to just distance your heart just that little bit further away, to take time and to create some space.  But everyone knows that you shouldn’t wear too many layers in spring and summertime. It’s not a wise thing to allow yourself to overheat. Sooner or later, when circumstances are different, when they are better, warmer, brighter, you need to peel some of those layers away. And sooner or later you need to peel some of the layers around your heart away.  Because here’s the thing…..if you don’t allow those layers to fully peel away, it is hard to truly feel joy, to feel love and acceptance, because those are the things you need to swirl into your heart. 

Sometimes in winter your fingers get so frozen by winter’s touch that it makes undoing buttons or fiddling with a zip quite tricky. That makes getting your big, bulky layers off, just that little bit trickier. What helps is warming up a little first, then beginning the process of getting rid of a few layers. Sometimes you need to be in that happier, brighter, safer place for a bit first, before you start to break away the layers around your heart. And you know what is necessary sometimes?  A friend. A buddy. A pal. Sometimes your own jacket zipper keeps you stuck stuck stuck. But with the help of a friend…..you can get unstuck pretty fast. Friends, good friends can be really good at helping you cut through your unnecessary layers.

Chronic sickness can be like winter. Grief can be like winter. Anxiety, depression and self- harm. All these things can bring about extended times of life just being that much harder, and that much more trying, and that much more inward focussed. Which can in turn make someone either intentionally or unintentionally form layer upon layer over their heart.

The good news is that layers can come off. They aren’t stuck on forever. And like I said, sometimes they need a friend’s assistance.  Sometimes they need professional help. But always, they can come off as new seasons, brighter seasons, warmer seasons are entered into. 

Layers surrounding our hearts can be chiseled off in the act of worship. When we realign our hearts with God.  When we focus on his goodness and loving kindness. Sometimes the best heart surgery does happen when we’re around good friends, kindred spirits, like-minded people. Sometimes the layers peel off when we pray, or have others pray for us. Someone I know, told me that she had a protective layer of her heart just melt away by the simple act of a friend standing next to her, when she was having a ‘moment’, and her friend simply put an arm around her. A simple hug.

There really is a danger than comes from wearing too many layers in the wrong season.

Let’s be people who look out for over dressed people. And let’s be people who offer grace and love, understanding and permission, to those who are still in the depths of a fierce winter, who really do need a few extra layers on at the moment.

On the Cusp…..

This is to you, dear lady who is standing on the precipice of a new direction in your life.

This is to you, dear man, who struggles under the weight of responsibility and concern for your family, yet you know, that you know, that you know, that you are being called into something new. Something different.

This is for the couple that are just feeling more and more unsettled with your status quo. Your life is ticking along just fine now, things are good, things are great, but there’s just something inside of you that hopes you’re not settling for less. Something inside of you wishes to expose your kids to a new dependence on God, a new level of trust having to be established.

You’re not alone with your fears, misgivings, second-guessing and concerns.

But this is what I know, without a doubt, as sure as night follows day, as sure as a baby poops as you’re about to walk out the door, as sure as a seven year old’s eyes leak as he’s learning the discipline of graciously loosing…….WHEN you step out in faith, WHEN you follow God’s leading, WHEN you choose to obey what has been asked of you, He will be faithful.

So very faithful.

One of the beauties of this world is we’re all called to different things. As a body of Christ we all have different ministries to serve in, different capacities to fill. What God has called my family and I to, will look completely different to you and your family has been called to. There is no ‘better’, there is definitely different. There is no ‘holier’ or ‘more worthy’, obedience is obedience. Serving is serving.

At the moment we are starting to pack up our lives here in Southern Oregon, and we’re researching and planning for a move to fulfill our new calling (in Australia of all places! You can read about that here) So, while your family may not be called to move geographically, or you may not be looking at fulltime Christian ministry, what you are being called to is of equal importance in the Kingdom.

And if you’re peeing your pants at the thought of something new, if you’re feeling that sense of doom over details that are way out of your control…..please know…..God has this.

God holds you in the palm of his hand.

His will is perfect.

Sheer and utter dependence on God is a scary thing, but a blessed thing. That walking step by step in His will…..that’s the kinda walking that brings miracle answers. That’s the kinda walking that shows God as the hero – because of ONLY God.

How do I know this? Because of God’s track record in my life. Because it is in the stretch and in the pull, where I think I’ve lost it all, where I think this time I’ve really done it, really gone crazy, really lost the plot….His track record shows the Lord provides. The Lord opens doors. The Lord makes crooked paths straight.

As a parent and as a trained teacher, one of the biggest concerns I have for my children is for their schooling. We were hugely blessed with a great experience of school here, and with moving that has been a concern of mine – where to put my boys in school, with not knowing the system, not knowing the options and not knowing areas etc.

A very legitimate concern in the natural.

But you know what? We *think* we have a school sorted. An amazing school at that. I did some internet research, chatted to a very wise and godly friend who was familiar with this one particular school that stood out from the others immediately, made some inquiries and we prayed and left it in God’s hands. And now…..because God has made a way, where there seemed to be no way….as long as this particular school accepts the boys we have been blessed to be able to make it so this will work for our family. Now we may never be able to save for a deposit for a house (ha!) – but that is not our concern at the moment – this big deal for me of where to place our kids in school – after a big move and after leaving all they have known for the last four and a half years – is in the process of being sorted for us.

God is most certainly in the details.

If it weren’t for looking back at all God has done in our lives – all he has provided – all those details we’ve seen his hand at work in – it would be easy to say no to our next God adventure. it would be more appealing to go back to where we’ve come from. Back to familiarity and all the comforts that brings. Back to what we know and to where we’re known. But God. But God’s track record shows He loves us and cares for us – for our every need and then some. God’s track record shows I fret and I worry and I falter every step of the way – but He doesn’t. He is patient and kind, his love is everlasting.

It doesn’t matter what the crowd thinks of what you’re called to do. it doesn’t matter if your heart skips beats and you can’t sleep and you mutter grumpy words to yourself…..it doesn’t matter….because in and through our weaknesses, He is made strong.

What is God asking of you right now?

Live in the stretch my friends. Allow opportunities for your kids to see you thanking God for his provision. Step out into his glorious unknown – step from the cusp – into the scary. He’s there. It is not unknown to Him.