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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Swimming Lessons.

I don’t always think deep and meaningful thoughts. I do spend a lot of time thinking about shallow and trivial matters……what to put on the meal plan for this week…..I like that ladies shirt, wonder where that’s from…..why did my child place all eight rolls of toilet paper on the ground, around the toilet……

See. Shallow.

But lately, when I have been thinking about more meaningful things, it’s been things along the lines of living better, vulnerability, honesty and doing well in all the seasons of life.

You know.

Actually, it’s very important schtufff, important to get right. Because I want my life to point towards Jesus, and that isn’t going to happen if I’m sinking because of life’s demands, and not swimming.

Most of us, if not all of us, live lives that are comprised of things we have to or need to do; demands we must fill, as well as things we choose to do. I know I’m in a season of life at the moment that sees me committing time and energy to things I simply must do as well as things I willingly and lovingly say yes to. My days and nights are full, but I very much steer clear from the glorification of ‘busy’, instead I know and see the need for that trendy wee word at the moment…..’busy’ meet ‘self-care’, ‘self-care’ meet ‘busy’.

How we each need to look after ourselves is different for every person; we all have different capacities with what we can handle as far as schedules and commitments go. It is also entirely possible to feel major guilt and shame over the fact you may not be looking after yourself as well as you could, and you know that’s not right too. Glory.

So what can we do to swim better while in the fast moving currents in our lives? And how can we best support and love those around us who are in a ‘full’ season?  Here is my ten cents worth on this……

For the cheering squads:

It’s hard seeing someone you care about getting really tired and worn out, but there are things you can do as a friend that can make a load of difference…….

* Don’t tell someone that they are too busy. They know their life is full already. They probably already feel some frustration and concern about it themselves. Some better questions to ask might be; ‘out of the things you’re giving your time to, is there something you feel you could let go?’ And, ‘out of the things you’re choosing to do, is there anything in that mix that isn’t life-giving to you’. Those two questions aren’t accusatory, but could well provide some food for thought, that then produces better ‘results’.

* Be there for them. Just be there. Provide plenty of smiles, hugs, pats on the shoulder and thumbs up, if anyone ever does that anymore. That physical support speaks volumes and helps to build trust, so that if and when things in the life of your ‘struggling to swim’ friend do turn to custard, they know that yours is a shoulder they feel safe to fully dissolve on.

* Keep a watchful eye on the basics……is your friend getting enough sleep? Eating enough good food? And doing something, sometime in their weeks that does something to re-charge their soul?

* Keep inviting them to be a part of your life happenings, even if and when you know the answer will be ‘no they can’t because of x, y, or z’. Full schedules can be terribly isolating, and the benefits of knowing that others still value your company far outweigh the negatives of knowing that this is just another thing you have to politely decline.

For those of you in the throes of a full schedule:

* Be real and honest with people about how you are doing and where you are at with things. This probably means making yourself vulnerable a tad. Gulp. This means opening your gob and trying to put words to feelings. Even bigger gulp. But as yours truly has been learning to do this……… it isn’t as scary as it could be, and the end result actually brings great comfort.

* Be real and honest with yourself, remind yourself that boundaries and limits are necessary. There are some great books around on these things if you need help in those areas.

* It really does help, with whatever you’re facing, if your attitude is positive and your chin is up, as much as it can be. There’s a whole ‘nother ten cents worth written about that here.

* If you can go about your days and especially face the obligations and commitments that you HAVE to do with a sense of genuine joy then you’re going to be able to sustain this lifestyle that you’re in much longer, than if you’re facing things without that same sense of joy. The things you choose to do, because you can and because you want to do them, I bet they naturally give you a sense of accomplishment, achievement and joy…….but the things you HAVE to do….that’s a tougher gig…..look for joy. Ask God for joy. Ask your trusted friends to pray for you to have joy. The joy of our Lord is our strength. (Nehemiah 8: 10).

* Tell your (bad) friend, Guilt, to take a jump. And to go far, far away. You are doing the very best that you can do. Life is all about seasons. This current season will not last forever, and you need to be ok with you, to be joyful in all you do.

There are a few verses in Matthew 11 (28 – 30)   I’ve been thinking about a lot lately in relation to all of this doing life well in the throes of a full life….(from The Message translation) “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

These verses speak volumes to me, about how to do life well, even a busy life. To me it’s about companionship with God – not doing things for God, but with God.  The whole unforced rhythms of grace….I’m thinking that’s like learning to swim strongly in whatever currents you may find yourself in…being able to tread water when the going is easy and when the waves come relentlessly crashing in, while not being taken too far off course. Circumstances may be hard, demands on us may be awful, but because of WHO we know, and WHO we’re trusting, WHO our eyes are on, we’re not taken off course.  And the thing with lessons?  With learning a new hobby or skill, the teacher is there as your guide, your encourager, your instructor.  A good teacher is setting you up for success.  And because I believe my God is a good, good God, then He’s most definitely a good teacher, and with His help and instruction, we’re able to swim, we’re able to navigate through whatever waters we find ourselves in.  The unforced rhythms of grace also speak to me of freedom to be yourself, because you are loved with absolutely no strings attached.  I’m keen to walk freely and lightly, and though my load may not feel that light at times, I know I can have a beautiful exchange with God.  And swim through many, deep waters with Him.

Cannonball, anyone?

The stuff that changes things. 

 The above wee ditty……it is a little (or a lot) cheeky, right?  I’m not sure I’ve ever done that to complete strangers….but if you promise to not tell the PC Police,  I’ll admit to saying it to family members on the odd occasion…..all in the name of teaching manners. Of course.  You’re welcome.

The above wee ditty got me thinking.

That’s almost always never a good thing.

You see I often tell my boys that ‘manners maketh a man’ and that ‘manners make the world go around’.  With my work in customer service I’m on the front-line as far as manners goes…..and I’ve noticed that most people respond really well to being thanked and spoken pleasantly too.  That’s nice.  Of course there are always some members of the public who make a memorable impression for all the wrong reasons, but I honestly think that if you’re proactive with your pleasantries, then there isn’t a lot of room left for nastiness.

I’ve also been thinking about culture and those things that are buried deep down in a people group.  I’ve lived in four different countries and have found that each place has had many cultural differences from what I had previously known, and these cultural differences take years to learn, understand and sometimes even appreciate.  But they are exciting, and valuable and each play an important role in their people group.

Just as people groups do have cultural ‘things’ that are intrinsically theirs, I do wonder if sometimes we accept certain behaviours and happenings that we don’t agree with, because we label them as possibly being a ‘cultural thing’ or a thing that just can’t be changed.  When really maybe we forget that we, ourselves, have the ability to change a situation by how we carry ourselves and by what we carry in us.

I think we can easily forget that we can change the atmosphere in a situation.  We can set the thermostat in our homes and workplaces.  We don’t have to settle for less than pleasant.  Sometimes this isn’t easy, sometimes this means we’re reacting in a polar opposite way to a situation than how we’d naturally like to react, but we have this uncanny ability to do so.  If we choose.

As a person who chooses to follow Christ, I do believe that I can pray to God and ask for wisdom when I need it.  And I always need it.  I can pray for patience when I need it.  And I always need that too.  More love?  More peace?  More self-control?  Yep, yep and yep.  I’m a work in progress for sure, but that ‘work’ means that I can change situations, I get to set the thermostat.

And that ‘work’, that’s the stuff that makes life all that much better.  All that much more peaceful. All that much more rewarding.

Today I was with some friends and we had the privilege of singing some worship songs with a dear soul who doesn’t have much longer here on this earth.  I’m certain that as we sang (thankfully the others can really SING, cos I certainly can’t), the atmosphere in that room changed.  Comfort entered in. We changed the thermostat.

This afternoon as one of my little boys sobbed his heart out because of a disappointment, his teacher was able to reassure him of his value as she gave him genuine words of encouragement.  She was able to speak hope into that troubled little heart, because of what she carries in her, because of WHO she knows. She changed the thermostat.

Tomorrow, as I deal with Joe Public all day long, I can offer him more than what he came into my workplace for: I can offer him a genuine smile, a listening ear and a heart that cares, because what I have to offer him is the stuff that changes things.  Its the stuff that brings hope to the hurting and relief from the striving. Its that stuff that’s called the presence of God. And the presence of God can change situations.  Big and little situations, all day and every day.  This I believe, because this is what I know to be true.  I can set the thermostat.

That’s the ticket, that’s the stuff.  What a holy privilege.

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.

Seeing the Forest.

Sometimes circumstances in your life come together, and when compounded one on top of the other, they line up to form a perfect storm.

A number of years ago one of these perfect storms blew into my family’s life.  We were living in America where my husband could only work one job, for the one employer and I didn’t have the visa requirements to allow me to be earning anything.  I was pregnant with our much wanted, long awaited number three child, and our health insurance costs took a hike, a sneaky preemptive move by the insurance company before Obamacare came into being.  Then.  Whammo. The pregnancy took a little turn and all of a sudden I needed to be under the care of a Maternal Fetal Specialist and that meant more out of pocket costs that we just hadn’t planned on and what do you know?  Perfect storm.

We were stuck.

Winnie the Poo stuck.

Stuck.

We had very limited options and resources to face the bills coming our way. We chose to hunker down and keep our lips sealed on how big a storm we were facing, but there was a bit of pleading with God going on, a little bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth, and some sleepless nights.

And true to form, like every storm, this storm did not hover over our lives forever.  A very kind person who guessed from her own experience what we may have been facing, put two and two together and this kind person arranged for us to receive some help in the form of some amazing food parcels which helped with our grocery bill, which in turn freed up some finances for the extra medical costs.

Talk about humbling. And hard. And miraculous.

But most of all humbling.

I learnt a lot of lessons in that season of my life.  One reality that stands out to me most, and I didn’t realize how much it had impacted me, until just recently, is how hard and limiting life is when you feel like you have little or no options.

And for so many people – their lives ARE drastically limited by situations totally beyond their control. And I think that is easily forgotten when we are in the throes of serving people and helping people. Sometimes one’s options for a happier life, or a healthier life, or an easier life, are so much more limited by legitimate situations:  be it finances, or ill-health, or the very real demands of dependents (children and/ or elderly), than we sometimes acknowledge.

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When we were getting organised to move from Australia back to NZ, we got some people into our home to look at what we had and to give us quotes for moving options. Most people might get three or four quotes at the most. Ha. Not us. We’d never been in this position before, where we were moving a whole house load, so we called in eight different moving companies. Eight. When it came to looking at our dining area, every one of those eight moving agents counted up: one table, one bench seat and five dining chairs. ‘Where’s the sixth chair?’ all eight of them asked. Well you see, there was no sixth chair. But every agent had this preconceived idea that we should have had six chairs. No biggie. But an example of how we all come into different situations with certain ideas of how things should be. With important issues, with everyday not so important issues….whether we realize it or not, we put certain filters on situations by looking at them with the eyes we have.

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So why am I giving you far too much information about a time in my life that has well and truly passed now?  And why this random talk about filters and preconceived ideas that we all can’t seem to shake?

Well it’s to serve as a reminder to me….and who knows…could possibly be helpful to someone, somewhere….

Perfect storms happen in people’s lives at random times. And when they hit, often they take away people’s abilities to see the forest for the trees. When options are limited because of time/ health/ finances, then powerlessness prevails. And with that can come a multitude of self- esteem issues, trust issues and overwhelming worthlessness .

As a Christ- follower, I see that a big part of my ‘job’, my role in life is to love justice, show mercy and to walk humbly with my God. And from some of harder parts in my own life, I now know that one of the most empowering things you can do for people when they are in tough times, is sometimes to highlight for them the real options in front of them. Sometimes situations need to be ‘fixed’. Sometimes the best option is to show up at their front door with a food parcel. But always people need people to help them to see the forest. Not just the trees in front of them. And that’s what my friend did for me.  Yes we got practical help.  But it was more than that.  She helped me to feel hopeful about a stink situation.  She helped me to realize we weren’t failures.  She validated all of my feelings, without ever making a big fuss.  She was a forest finder for me.

And sometimes helping people, truly helping people, means applying some filters to your own thought processes, before you suffer from foot in mouth disease. I’m convinced that people don’t always know what they don’t know.

Sometimes when you’re helping people the best advice is actually no advice.

Sometimes you need to have the hard conversations and facts to be faced, but always with words seasoned with grace. Always with a heart willing to see the situation for what it truly is, and ears to really hear what a person is truly saying.

To me, that’s the best kind of helping. That’s the best kind of ‘fixing’. We all need friends to help us to see the forests, and sometimes we get to be the ones, leading the way on the wilderness trail,  finding the forests for others.

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Finding the delightful in the different.

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This is for any parent who has ever had to sit through an ‘assessment’ on their child.

For every parent who has had developmental milestones clearly spelt out for them and been told their child fits outside of the normal parameters.

Gulp.

For every parent who has sat through an ‘indivualised education plan’ meeting, appearing as their child’s advocate as best they know how.

That’s never easy, not even for those who have walked this road for years.

The size of your child’s gap between what’s considered ‘normal’ and where they actually are, doesn’t actually reflect how big or small your feelings towards this situation could or should be.

Feelings are feelings, reality is reality.

What you have to shoulder each and every day, is no light load.

The grief you may face, knowing your child’s future will quite likely be rather different to their siblings realities, and the hopes and dreams you may have had for them, have had to morph into something different, to your early dreams for them.

I don’t know what challenges you face in your daily life. I don’t how how hard you have to fight to keep a smile on your face, to keep one foot walking in front of the other. I suspect that you rarely get a break, that sometimes people don’t know how or what to say to you, that you’re used to living in a constant state of exhaustion.

However there are parts of your story that I do know. I suspect if you were to sit me down and share your heart with me, I have an inkling that there are certain things you’d want to make crystal clear for me.

I think you would freely share that even though the tiredness is never-ending, there are still snippets of joy and of hope in your days.

I suspect you’d say that yes the appointments, assessments, meetings and therapies are ongoing and are costly in more than one way, but you’ve come to realize that these professionals are (mostly) on the same team as you, with your child’s best interests truly at heart.

I reckon you’d state, with eyes blinking away the tears, because you’re real and you’re raw, that you’ve come to find the delightful in the different. You see that what sets your child apart from others in how they see the world, or how the world sees them, and you can find some true delight in that.

And isn’t that the thing that makes every parent’s heart swell, in each and every child ? Your child is delightful. Your child has a purpose, your child has a place to belong, your child has unique giftings and talents and abilities.

Your child may well be different, but often, that’s the true beginning of real delight.

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?

fionacharis.com

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

Beyond the Smiles

It was my husband’s birthday yesterday. To honour the spunky hunk I posted a reasonably recent photo of him on Facebook, along with a few lines about how I feel about him. Then I got to thinking about that particular photo and what it represented.

The photo was taken in New York, in Times Square. We’d been ‘given’ a glorious 56 hours away from our three kids, and my very generous brother had flown us over to NYC to be there while he was there. The time  was magical in a huge number of ways. I honestly wasn’t expecting to love the city as much as I did, it was awesome to explore it with my brother and his wife, the weather was beautiful, the sights were stunning, it was simply magical. The photo shows a very happy husband, thoroughly enjoying a once in a lifetime experience.

What the photo doesn’t show is that happy husband had at that time begun to exhibit some pretty severe symptoms for type one diabetes. That photo doesn’t show the seriousness of what he was facing. The week after we got back Michael went to the doctor and was diagnosed with this life changing condition.

Beyond that smile, there was a lot more going on than what that smile would let on. Yes, that smile in that photo was genuine. We had an absolute blast in those 56 hours and created memories that will last us a lifetime. But, I’ll always remember there was more going on, there was more beyond that smile.

Last year before my kids started their new school, I remember being weirdly freaked out and overwhelmed by the thought that my kids wouldn’t fit in. It felt like everyone else had it all together, that their kids were all extremely high achieving and I held onto a completely unfounded fear that my boys with their ‘point of difference’, their speech impediments, would suffer and not fit in, when all around them were ‘perfect’ kids.

Yeah, well, it didn’t take long to realize that as I said earlier, this was an unfounded fear. A stupid fear. Ignorant thinking on my part. You see I know, I really do know, that there are no perfect kids. Just like there are no perfect people. We all have our issues. Every kid has something that they struggle with, some things are obvious, others are not. My kids did fit in just fine, because it is an imperfect world we live in.

But that false thinking of mine prompted me to think, more often, what is really going on with  x, y, z kid? How is that family doing?  Just like so much was going on behind the scenes of that photo I took of Michael, a moment in time, in Times Square…..what’s going on beyond the smiles of your kids classmates? Your kindy teacher? The check out operator you see once a week? The basketball coach? Hairdresser? Friend you just texted?

Now I do know that most people aren’t going to open up, blab on your shoulder and tell you their life’s woes, just because you’ve bothered to take the time and noticed them, some may though! And we actually don’t have to be in the loop with everyone’s own private business. But I felt this worthy of a blog post because I myself need reminding that so often we only see people’s highlight reels. We’re exposed to all that is good and noteworthy and praiseworthy in life, and it is easy to think how easy some people have it. And that can isolate us in our struggles, especially our kid struggles. But we’re in this together. There are no perfect kids and there are no perfect parents, but we are better together.

We are better when we look beyond the smiles, when instead of highlight reel, we see a real life reel.

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