The Mallet Finger and Progress.

It wasn’t even the first thing he told me about his day.  It was an ‘oh by the way Mum’ and he lifted his hand to show me his flopsy finger.  ‘Oh by the way’ indeed.

We were doing the drive home after school de-brief, my middle boy and his older and younger brothers.  Talking about their highs and their lows as we navigated traffic.  ‘Oh by the way, yeah’,  I saw that he did indeed have a munted finger.  He laughed it off….and then I got the giggles….this kid…..only six months ago had the first fracture in our family – a finger – a different finger to this munted one.  I giggled because sometimes life is just so ridiculous…here he is…telling me about his finger….as we drive home and then I only had to turn around to drop him off to soccer practice and then I had to be at work for the rest of the afternoon/evening, and this was all happening in the next 30 minutes. That finger was gonna be a job for Dad to sort out. (Single parents, once again I salute you, seriously).

Turns out the munted finger is an injury called a ‘mallet finger’.  In Luka’s instance the tendon has come away from the finger and he can’t straighten it by sheer willpower.  He’s got a splint on it now, to keep it straight as it heals.  That should take about six weeks, ideally.

Ideally.

But here’s the kicker;

If, for any reason that finger joint does not remain straight before that six weeks of healing is up, then it’s back to square one, back to day one of week one of healing again.  And another six weeks begins again. (Go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $100, that kinda deal)  All that hard work of healing can be easily undone, if it is not fully healed.  Talk about pressure when we’re pretending to be nurses and clean the finger without bending it.  No pressure at all. No, that’s not a nervous twitch at all.  Nope.  All this with the twelve year old’s eyes pleading up at you….be careful…be very careful…..

Now – it’s ok, remember I’m a big picture girl.  As far as injuries go this one is small in the big scheme of things.  Luka can still play soccer – so his world is not crumbling down around him.  There are no major (or minor) surgeries needed.  As far as things go, this is do-able.  This is manageable.  I know there are people all around me who are dealing with much more major things.  But aren’t you glad that when it comes to you and your life, whatever you’re working on in your character, whatever obstacles you’re persevering with, whatever you’re pushing through, whatever is in you that needs careful attention and healing, you are actually making progress.  You’re not going to be back at day one, week one of healing again – because of a harder than usual day, or because life can sometimes be like that whackamole game when something new and hard and challenging is always popping up at you again.

Quite simply – Progress is progress is progress.  Change is change is change.

We just can’t always see it in ourselves.

A number of weeks ago, one late afternoon, I was driving to work, minding my own business, driving to the speed limit, and all of a sudden someone didn’t stop at a give way sign, and distracted by the kids in her car, turned right into my lane and right into me. The old smasherooni trick.  I wasn’t hurt, and the other driver and her passengers weren’t hurt, but both cars were….you guessed it….munted….

I did what any normal female does after a wee ding like that and I cried, and I cried some more, and in between some more crying I called my husband to come and help me.  A neighbour friend of ours brought Michael to me, meanwhile, some other friends of ours just happened to be driving by and saw me stuck at the side of the road, saw that the smasherooni had happened and saw my tears.  So they came to help too.  Then a lady who just happened to be driving by, drove by but then felt to turn around and come back and see if she could do anything to help.  She helped massively by administering a loving hug and now that stranger is now a friend.  So all that happened in a short space of time, but what struck me most was that all of my friends took the time not only to check on me, but they also went to the other driver and made sure she was ok.  Every single one of us offered kind words, smiles and reassurance to her.  But.  Not one of the other driver’s friends who came to help her, took the time to come to me and see if I was ok.

Which was interesting to me.

Because not one of my friends – Nicky, Kate, Andrew, Elizabeth or Michael thought twice about their kind gestures.  They didn’t hesitate to offer a helping hand.

You see when the rubber meets the road and when you’re in a ‘not your usual circumstance’, what’s in you, definitely comes out. And when it’s something that is good and kind and positive, it comes out because –  Change is change is change.  Progress is progress is progress.  A life that looks outward and seeks to offer hope and love and affirmation to others, doesn’t always look that different to a life that is stationary and inward looking, but it is.  Hugely different.

Whatever obstacles you’re overcoming – they are being won over.  Bit by bit.  Little by little.

Whatever you’re working to develop in your character, while it may not always be apparent to you that change is happening – it’s more than possible that it is more obvious to others, than it is to you.  There’s always someone listening to you, watching you, imitating you.

Whatever is in you that needs careful attention and healing, is being healed.  Bit by bit.  Little by little.  We can’t always see it, or feel it, but I believe change is happening.

At the time of my smasherooni, my friends were just being their amazing selves, they probably wouldn’t know how different they actually were to others present, if I didn’t tell them. So I’m telling them now.  They were amazing.  They are amazing. You can’t always see change and progress in you – but others sometimes have a better view of that. (And that change and progress – well it’s a natural byproduct of developing Jesus’ eyes, imitating His heart and that happens by getting to know Him and growing in our faith).

I’m so grateful that in my life only mallet fingers have such a ‘one strike and you’re back to square one policy’, pretty much everything else can go by the ‘all is grace’ policy.  I like that one much better.

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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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Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.

Have you ever had a rather profound thought in the middle of what was actually quite a ridiculous situation?

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A couple of weeks ago my family and I stuffed our car full of all the bare necessities you need for a camping holiday, and we took off in search of sunshine, warmth and adventure. Much to our delight we did find lots of sunshine and warmth. The weather for the weeks on either side of our holiday week was awful – but not for our holiday. And much to our delight we found a few adventures.

Well.  Actually.

Not all of the adventures were all that delightful.

Leading up to our holiday I’d been unwell. I’d also been doing some extra hours at one of my jobs and I left it for a few too many days before I took myself off to the doctor to get some antibiotics for a double infection.

So I was already pooped before the first day of our holiday; I worked the night before and then we were up early to head out of town.  All of those factors added together, combined with the fact that my antibiotics were slow to kick in meant that my pain factor went up and up.  We set up our campsite, explored the beautiful area, and I made dinner, all with my ‘fine face’ on.  Then as soon as the kids had gone to bed, my pain levels increased even more and I started to throw up.  Mmmmmm mmmm. For the first reappearance of my dinner, I managed to make it to the campground facilities. Hi de hi campers!  That’s a rather humiliating thing…..have you noticed that no matter what time of the day or night when you’re using communal facilities, there’s always an emphasis on the ‘communal’?  No chance of spewing solo thank you very much.

Anyway.  I made it back to our tent just fine, but the next five episodes of being ‘chunderstruck’,  had to happen in the tent.  Fortunately I had some plastic bags with us.  Unfortunately some of those bags had holes in them.  Unfortunately I managed to find and use exactly those ones.

By the time the seventh vomit came along I was sitting in the car, while my dear husband (in sickness and in health) was packing up what belongings we thought we might need for a trip to find Fiona some help. (We knew I needed stronger painkillers than what I had, some anti-nausea meds and some decent hydration). Just before he woke up our three sleeping children to bundle them into car, to drive to who knows where (we honestly didn’t know where I could get the medical help I needed because we didn’t know what small towns near us had middle of the night urgent care), I remember looking up at the sky and marveling, just for a moment, just before I reached for the spew bag again.

You see those stars were dazzling.  They were scattered across the night sky, blazing boldly. It was a stunning sight.  Apparently on a clear night you can see about two thousand stars from one vantage point. I think I glanced up and saw my two thousand and it took my breath away.

I saw them and I couldn’t help but think, ‘hello my old friends’.

Now I was pretty sick, and pretty out of it for a while there, and it took me the whole week to recover, but I promise you that me thinking of the stars as my friends was a perfectly sound and rational thought.

When we lived in the Northern Hemisphere the night sky there was something I was unfamiliar with.  If I had taken the time to study it and to get to know it, I’m sure I would have loved it too.  A few years ago I remember talking to someone who was about to become a parent for the first time. I told them I reckoned that looking at your newborn baby and getting to know that baby, studying his/ her features and expressions and mannerisms was way more entertaining that television ever was.  That person may have looked at me weird at the time, but now as his baby three is on the way, I reckon he may be in agreement with me there.  You see the night sky that we see here in New Zealand is something I’m more familiar with, because I’ve gotten to know it a little. I’ve studied it a little. I’m not a constellation expert, but when I see some of the main formations that are visible to the naked eye, I see them and I know them.  They are comforting to me.  Old friends.  And they remain constant.

Life is so very full of movement and change.  Family dynamics change.  Kids change year levels at school and sometimes begin different schools. Jobs change.  Expectations change. All sorts of situations change and even our physical selves are constantly changing – we gain weight/ lose weight/ grow hair/ lose hair/ lose skin cells every single day.

Sometimes change can be overwhelming, especially when it is thrust upon us.

When I was in the midst of being so very sick, on what was supposed to be a glorious summer family holiday, and I looked up at the magnificent tapestry above my head, those stars reminded me of God’s steadfastness.  Those stars that I’d admired as a teenager camping with friends, leading camps for small children in the summer holidays where I got to tell them about a great big God who loves them so, those stars were the very same stars twenty five years later. Old friends. We didn’t know where we were going, we had three pretty worried and tired children with us, but as I gazed up with wonder, I knew that God was also with us.  He is steadfast.  Resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.

When I think of steadfastness, I can’t not think of God’s love.  Sometimes we don’t always feel it, or see it, just like we can’t and don’t always see the stars.  Sometimes we choose not to look up.  Sometimes there are things that move into the space between our line of sight and those stars – but that doesn’t ever change the fact that the stars are there. Shining brightly.  Shining gloriously.  Sometimes we just need to drive out out out, far far far from the hustle and bustle of the city’s own lights.  There’s a verse in the bible that says God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness!’ (Lamentations 3: 22 – 23, The Message. And for me, living in the world with some much change, so many unknowns and variables, it is remarkable how comforting and calming it is to know that God’s loyal love is never going to run out.  Another version of the same verse says this: Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness’.

This world will continue to swirl and the pace of life doesn’t seem to calm as much as we would like, but we are not consumed.

The next time you feel a little overwhelmed by change or you’re holding onto your sanity by your fingertips, because life can be incredibly hard, take some deep breaths until it is dark outside, then take a little walk and look up.  Look up and know you are carried.  Look up and know He cares.  Look up and know that creator of those stars is creating new mercies for you every day.  You are not alone.  You are not forgotten.  There is a love that never changes. Look up.

‘If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how men would believe and adore’. – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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(And if you’re wondering, we ended up driving 40 mins to the closest town and talking to the ambulance service, before I spent about three hours at the small hospital there, and the kids recovered just fine, but I’m never going on holiday without anti-nausea meds again…..)

Bridges

Today marks the one year anniversary of a dear friend’s passing.  It’s also the start of a period of about three months where a few other friends will be remembering and honouring their loved ones who have died in the last two years.  I’ve been thinking about their grief and their journeys, and I’ve been thinking also of others who may not be entering this new year with a good bounce in their step.  We’re supposed to you know – we’re supposed to make plans and goals and for those of us especially in the Southern Hemisphere who have our major summer holidays at this time of the year, we’re supposed to spend this time getting refreshed and re-energized and re-focused for the coming year.  But for some, this is easier said than done.  And that’s what I’ve been thinking about.

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We like bridges.  My family, we like bridges.  We like driving on bridges that are new to us.  We like different structures and noticing different materials that have been used in their construction. Spend any amount of time in the Portland, Oregon and you’ll love the bridges there.  There’s a bridge that takes you from Oregon into Washington State – the border line is drawn through the Columbia River.  That bridge is also a drawbridge so that gains triple points for interest sake.

Bridges are an engineering field all in themselves.  I married into a brainy family.  We’ve got doctors and engineers in our fold and one of our engineers is a bridge engineer.  She’d love all the bridges we got to see in our time in the States.

The longest bridge in New Zealand is in Canterbury. It leads State Highway One over the Rakaia River and it goes for 1,756 metres.  We used to drive that stretch of road all the time when we lived in Christchurch and always, always, we’d try to hold our breaths for the duration of the bridge. It’s just one of those things that a lot of people do.  Similar to honking your horn when you’re driving in the Lyttleton Tunnel.  No-one knows why you do these things or who first started it, but you join in, because it’s a ‘thing’.

So when I think of bridges, sometimes I think of holding my breath.  And sometimes this is a conscious thing and sometimes an involuntary thing.

I know of plenty of people at the moment who are travelling on their own bridges at the moment.  Bridges of grief.  Bridges of ‘interesting’ journeys.  Bridges that are nagivating them along paths of uncertainty.  And for some of these people breathing does not come easy.

You see some people think of grief as a tunnel, something dark with light at the end of it.  The promise of hope, beckoning.  And yes, it may well be a tunnel for some.  But for some, this grief journey, this dealing with the things that life chucks at us, is more of a bridge.  Bridges make terrain than is uncross-able, cross-able.  Bridges lead us on.  They open up the path before us.  Bridges don’t hide us from the outside world – from everything else that is going on, like tunnels do.  My friend who is a new widower, knows all too well, that just because he’s adjusting to a new normal, and that’s tough in itself, but that also doesn’t make him immune to all of life’s other struggles – he still has to manage the normal yuck and ick of life.  But.  He’s on a bridge.  There’s forward momentum. He’s progressing.

Bridges are designed to withstand incredible weights, incredible loads.  You haven’t seen road freight until you’ve seen trucks in action in the States.  Websites like Amazon can promise things like next day delivery when you’ve got the billions of trucks working like they do, moving more than 10.4 billion tons of freight a year.  So we know that bridges on major roads can carry amazing weights.  And I wonder if we sometimes underestimate what we can carry ourselves?  The human soul is amazingly resilient and most of the time we just don’t know how much we are capable of carrying, until we are under that weight, until we are having to bear those burdens. You may be on a bridge in your own life right now, and you’re most likely feeling incredibly weak and inadequate and overwhelmed – but-  I know this – you are stronger than you feel.  Your ‘bridge’ is stronger than you think.

How do I know how strong your bridge is? Bridges have designers, they have engineers, we also have a designer in charge of the construction of the bridges in our lives.  God didn’t put the pain in our lives. God didn’t make a chain of events happen so that the end result is you’re absolutely petrified about the start of a new year because you’re not sure what it is going to bring or how things are possibly going to be different, no, things are not as they possibly are in your life because of what God has done, this I know. He is there with you now, providing you with a bridge.  A way through.  A way on.  The promise of HopeWhen we’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death, God is with us.  He promises to be with us.  His rod and his staff protecting us.  That’s the promise of a bridge.  We can place great reliance on the strength of what we’re walking on – on how we’re walking through whatever we’ve walking through, because in Him we are made strong.  

You’ll notice that there are some bridges that are single lane bridges – or one way.  I kinda think that’s what life is like with some of the things we have to walk through.  We can have companions alongside us, for a stage or two, up to a point, and then there’s a time when actually, the paths have to be driven solo, or walked single-file.  Sometimes this happens involuntarily – sometimes people can’t offer the help you may need – or they don’t know the need is there.   Sometimes there’s only so much that others can do to lend their support.  Your bridge must simply be walked solo.  But your bridge is still a bridge – a structure to get from point A to point B, and your walk is surely supported best by the one who knows you best, your loving Father.  He’s there.  He’s by your side, he’s calling you forward.

Some bridges can be very long.  Very long.  And when you begin them, you can’t always see the end point.  But you know what? The end point is there….it is just as secure and safe as the starting point. Just remember to breathe.  You can’t hold your breath for every bridge you go on.  You’ve got this.

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To bend towards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A whole bunch.

God says we are his children.

We are chosen, holy and blameless.

We are His workmanship.

We have been made complete in Him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boom.

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

And He does this to me too.

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

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

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

HE DOES THAT FOR US!!!

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

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

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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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When English doesn’t cut it.

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

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

Random, I know.

But relevant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These continuous actions are not yet completed.

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

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

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

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Dot to dot.

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

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

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

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

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

Dot to dot.

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

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

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

Dot to dot. One thing leads to another.

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

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

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

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Up.

One of the absolute highlights of my family’s time living in America, is the 56 hours my husband and I spent on our trip to New York City. Those 56 hours included the travel time across the country, but considering it was the first time we’d flown anywhere without our kids in our kids’ lifetimes, then even the travel time was a highlight (and all the parents said ‘Amen’).

This trip to NYC was meaningful in every way: the flights had been a generous gift to us, it was one of our last adventures before leaving America, we were childless for 56 hours (oh, had I already mentioned that?), we were able to meet up with my brother and his wife who were there at the same time as us, and we were there over the fun Fourth of July holiday weekend.

I’m a Christian. I don’t believe in magic, right? Without a doubt I believe in miracles and God’s power. But if people ever ask me about New York City and what I thought of it, I feel compelled to say it is ‘magical’, simply because I can’t think of a better describing word.

I’m not a big city girl. I’m not a fan of crowds in any way, shape or form. I’m no country girl either, but I’d tend to favour smaller populated places than bigger populated places if I had to make a choice…..so my love for NYC surprised me.

You see New York City, the city that never sleeps, truly is a hive of activity. It is a diverse and bustling place for sure. The neighbourhoods of Little Italy and Chinatown are fascinating, you feel like you’ve walked across international borders as you explore these areas.  The cheapskate way to see the Statue of Liberty is to catch the free ferry across to Staten Island, and from there you get to see Manhattan from a completely new angle. I could go on but this ain’t no travel blog. But the thing for me that makes New York City so stunning are the skylines. And all the things you see when you choose to look up.

You know it isn’t always convenient to look up. When you’re in unfamiliar surroundings and the sea of humanity is pressing in on you, you feel like you need to be focusing on your path, but if you don’t look up, you miss seeing the fireflies as they dance their evening waltz around the parks. If you don’t look up you miss the complex architecture and the striking contrasts every which way. If you don’t look up you don’t see how everyday people make their lives happen in apartment blocks looming high above the footpaths.

When you are in New York City you must look up, because if you don’t you’ll miss a good amount of the beauty surrounding you.

I’ve come to find that life in general can often cause you to focus on the looking around you and on the looking downwards, but we can miss out on the most precious, if we don’t look up.

Sometimes you may find yourself surrounded by voices that are too loud. Too demanding. Like the voices that form the humming on the streets of New York. Conversely, sometimes the voices you most want to hear, that you’re actually pining for, are silent. When that happens, peace can come when we choose to look up.

God, speak to me.

Guide me.

Encourage me.

Sometimes when bodies jostle us and the surge of the mass of a crowd push us in a direction we don’t want to go in, like the crowd at a subway station, all desperate to get on or off in a race against time, we need to look up.

God, help me.

Give me wisdom.

Be my guide.

Sometimes what can be ordinary and mundane, is transformed when we look up. In NYC some very ordinary street fronts are taken to a completely new level when your line of sight moves up the building fronts, as you look up.

But sometimes when we’re so intent on getting our next steps right, we forget to look up. We do. But thankfully we have before us a very real promise in the bible, that when we seek God, we will find Him. In The Message version of the bible we read ‘When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else,I’ll make sure you’re not disappointed’ (Jeremiah 29: 13).

The title track on Grace Vineyard’s album ‘Seek Me’ includes the lyrics ‘you reveal your glory, to hungry hearts’.  I love that and I’ve seen and experienced this countless times, and need to remind myself to come closer to God with a hungry heart, because I know it will be filled. I know it is worth it, to look up.

When we fill our lives with Holy pauses, when we fix our attention on looking up, on focusing on God, then what was hazy becomes clear.

What was confusing and complex becomes understandable and simplified.

What was clouding our perspectives is able to fade away and we are able to gain fresh insight.

When in New York City, it really pays to look up. Always look up.

When doing life, the best way to live this life, is to look up. Seeking Him, and looking up.

 

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Bigger and biggerer.

On Saturdays I peel and cut up carrots. Well, to be fair, it is only one of the things I do on Saturdays, but there are so many of those jolly orange things that it feels like a major part of my day. Usually I work my way through 20 kgs of them. Last Saturday it was 35 kgs. Lucky me.

The good thing about prepping veges is that it doesn’t require a lot of brain power. Your hands just kinda get into a rhythm and it is ok for your mind to wander. So in prepping the aforementioned 35 kgs of carrots, I got to do a lot of thinking.

I was thinking about some things that had happened in my week, specifically in my other ‘work’. One of the privileges I have is to liaise with people and help to collate a weekly letter filled with prayer points, for people in our church. We call these people ‘intercessors’ because they make a point of interceding for others, of praying specifically for others. This past week, within 36 hours of sending out the weekly letter, I had heard back from three of the prayer needs that had been listed, and had been told that the ‘best possible outcome’ was now in place, regarding those three very different situations. Yippee. So good. They were ‘but, God’ situations.

So there I was peeling my carrots,  my stack loads of carrots, and I was also thinking about a comment I’d made to a friend in regards to the whole God answering prayer business. You see I get the feeling we need to pray some bigger prayers, and believe with all of our being that we serve a bigger God. A bigger God than we dare to hope for.

Nice sentiments, right?

But I don’t really care for mere sentiments. For things to make any real difference, for words to really count, I reckon there has to be some kind of action.

—————————

Just before we left America my Spunky Hunk of a husband got really quite sick, really quite fast. He was fit and active, but within weeks he lost oodles of weight and had various symptoms signalling that something was seriously wrong. We didn’t really let on to many people just how concerned we were, but after he had been to see a Doctor and while we were waiting for various test results, the thought of the big C did cross our minds. To our relief the test results didn’t show any cancer, however it did indicate the presence of late onset diabetes (we later found out it was type one, insulin dependent).

You know I’ll never forget some of the feelings we had when we were in the not knowing phase of what was going on with Michael’s health. You don’t want your mind to ‘go there’, but it does. You do wonder about chemo and radiation therapy, about how best to prepare your children with how to handle having a sick Daddy, or worse still, an absent Daddy. That’s just the tip of the iceberg really.

Thankfully my Spunky Hunk is just fine and although the diabetes is a pain in the butt, it means that Michael can still live a full, full, life.

You know how sometimes when you hear about someone’s bad news you feel really bad for them, and you commit to pray for them and you really and truly care, and then other times when you’ve experienced just a teeny tiny smidgen of something just a little slightly similar, and you hear of someone’s bad news and it just cuts you deep, and you REALLY feel bad for them, and you REALLY commit to pray for them and you really and truly deeply care?

A month ago friends of ours received some devastating news. Cas and Todd are a young couple, with two small children. They are Americans who are overseas missionaries to Guyana, but are currently stateside where Todd has been rebuilding a plane for their mission organisation to use back in the jungle. Out of the blue, their plans have been halted by the discovery of a tumour in Todd’s abdomen. A tumour that is inoperable as it is now, a tumour that may or may not respond to chemo, but if it does, and it shrinks, then it may be able to be operated on. Already Cas and Todd have uprooted themselves from Tennessee and are now in Seattle, Washington so that Todd can be in a hospital that specializes in the particular type of cancer he is facing. You can follow their story here as Cas so very beautifully puts words to their experiences, feelings and realities.

And so I feel deeply committed to praying for Cas and Todd. And I feel desperate to do anything I can to help. Because as I peeled my 35 kgs of carrots the other day, and as I wondered how I can really start living as how I believe, living as proof that my God is a big big God, I realized that’s the wonderful thing about the power of the Internet…….this is one way I can call on my big big God. I can pray some bigger prayers and I can enlist your help, wherever you are in the world….

Would you join with me in praying for Todd?

Let’s pray that his tumour would shrink. That the chemo will work. That his side effects will be minute and very bearable. That the tumour can be removed. That any cancer that may have spread would just disappear. That Todd may have full health. For strength for Todd for every part of this journey. For strength and peace for Cas as she walks this journey with her best friend. For dear little Amelia and Sam, as their lives have been turned upside down, may they know calm, peace and certainty in this very uncertain time.

Please add Todd to your church prayer list. Please ask your praying Grandma to pray for this situation. Please mention his needs to your private facebook group for praying friends.

Because our God is a big, big God, and He is biggerer than Todd’s cancer.

And I reckon He’s itching to hear ALL your prayers, for ALL your praises and concerns.

I can’t mention Cas and Todd and their need for a healing, without also letting you know they need help financially too. Yes, the reputation of outrageous hospital bills in America is true. Yes, they have health insurance, but that doesn’t cover everything, and certainly doesn’t include the cost of a cross-country move, ongoing un-budgeted for gas costs, and a thousand and one other things demanding their pennies. If you feel that helping them out financially is something you’re able to do and would like to do, especially our friends in Oregon who will remember Cas and Todd, feel free to flick me an email and I’ll give you the relevant info.

Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for joining me in my belief that my God is a big God. And don’t be surprised when I bring you more updates and prayer requests, from a mind wandering from prepping carrots.  Piles of them. Weekly.