That was then, this is now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You see that particular story of mine matters.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Incredible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My book.

Sorry, not sorry to draw you in with that there blog post title.  Just to be clear – I don’t have a book in the pipelines. Nope.  Not even close.  But I’ve been asked by some people over recent years if I would ever attempt that.  Maybe one day. Not today.  Not tomorrow.  Probably not next week or even next year. Maybe one day though. I’ve learnt to never say never about certain things, but for the longest time I’ve thought I really don’t have much to write about.

But you know what?

I do.

I gots me some stuff.

You see I’ve been reminded just lately that I don’t have any one remarkable story up my sleeve, but a whole series of remarkable stories.  Remarkable because they all center on one main character, one main theme, one all encompassing story which is remarkable despite all of my orneriness, despite all of ME,  and that’s Jesus.

Jesus. Who He is. What He’s done for me.  What He continues to do.  The hope I find in Him. The companionship in Him. The acceptance found by Him.

Do you ever find yourself stuck in your story?  Do you ever seek to upskill yourself with all the whys people do things and how best you need to react and what your next step is and what you’re going to do about all of this?

Yeah.  I know the drill.

And I know that knowledge is good, and learning is gooder and seeking help is the goodest.  But I’ve also been reminded lately that the best thing of all to do, in any and every situation is to turn to Jesus.  To blurt out your worries and your joys, your ups and your downs, your thoughts and your perspectives, to cast your cares upon Him.

Time and time again I can look back at my life and see evidence of God’s fingerprints of grace; of provision and of help.

Of Jesus.

That time I was completely surprised and crushed by sheer animosity towards me?  Jesus stood by, waiting for me to place my broken heart at His feet.

Every time I have faced agonizing grief and heartache?  Jesus has been there, with His reassuring presence and invading love.

When I was told that having another child was a medical impossibility until X happened, but then those two parallel lines on that plastic stick proved otherwise. Jesus saw my tears of joy and my grateful heart.

Those bills that stack up when you least expect them?  We’ve been met with miraculous provision, time and time again.  Situations that came as a surprise to us, were no surprise to God.

Those occasions when I begin to doubt the decisions my husband and I have made regarding career choices and what we give our time and attention to, they are always met with a gentle reminder from God himself carried out in various ways, that He has everything in control and He is no man’s debtor.

Jesus.  He’s right there.  Whisper His name and the atmosphere around you changes.

Jesus.  He’s there for my heartache as well as the times when my heart is full.

Jesus.  The hero of my story. The author of each and every chapter.  And He’s longing to be my very first port of call in each and every situation I face.  And He can do the same for you. No matter what you’re going through.  This I know.

This I surely know.

Jesus.

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Turned to Gold. 

Not all blog posts just ooze out, in a free flow manner like a magnificent waterfall. Some start and stop like semi-gridlocked traffic. Others are squished out of one’s soul much like a garlic crusher, where the hard work is getting past the outer layers, then it just squeezes out…

This particular one of mine ain’t the waterfall variety.

You’ve been warned.

I’ve just devoured an outstanding book; ‘God on Mute’ by Pete Greig. Pete wrote this book to help those who are hurting and wondering ‘Where is God?’, those who are suffering in silence. He looks at the huge topic of why prayer sometimes doesnt ‘work’.

I borrowed the book from a friend, with the very best of intentions. I wanted to know how to help others who are struggling with unanswered prayer. Chuckle. Ha. For others.

Little did I know.

You see the more I read the book the more I could see insights in it for me. ‘God’ reminders for me. Encouragement for my own journey, and encouragement from my own journey. And the more I read the book the more I could resonate with Pete’s sharing of his wife’s journey with sickness, because of my own wee  big adventure with sickness.

‘God on Mute’ is the book I would have loved to have read anytime in my four years of living with a yet to be diagnosed condition. A time made up of countless doctors visits, endless tests, cocktails of painkillers and sleeping tablets, and totally unexplained pain. Sheer, utter, agonizing pain.

You see I don’t tend to talk much about that time in my life, because it seems so distant now.  And while I’m pain free now, I’m not really ‘healed’. My health is ‘managed’ and for the most part I’m winning on that front, but healing is not something that I can say I have. Not physically, and there are probably a few lingering emotional scars from that chapter in my life too, if I really stop to think about it, but I reckon they are healing with time.

It’s a weird thing to be able to say that I’m not healed of something, but actually, that’s ok. It is well with my battle-worn, battle-torn soul anyway. And the fact that I’m ok, isn’t anything to do with me as a person. No, I’m pretty much a wretched soul. But I’m ok because of who my God is, and the fact I can acknowledge that His presence has carried me all that time then, and on and on and on now.

It is a good thing to look back and to be able to say while there were many times that I wished that ‘adventure’ was not a part of my life’s journey, yet I am changed for the better and yet I will praise Him. And this book has reminded me of that.

Greig quotes a friend of his who had a profound experience when visiting a friend who was dying. This friend made the comment that ‘God is present in the midst of suffering because we are present in it. We are God’s presence’. I find this to be amazingly accurate. Pain and grief have a way of causing great isolation. But the people who push through the barriers that people put up, and the imagined or real state of loneliness that those suffering are in are invaded by the loving people who carry God’s presence, there God is present. God is present when He feels far away. God is present when circumstances are grim and answers seem distant. God is present.

The importance of people supporting you through tough times comes out numerous times in Greig’s writing. ‘We expect God’s voice to be unmistakable, a rumbling revelation or an insistent inner whisper. Yet for those with the ears to hear, He often speaks most eloquently through the commonplace actions of ordinary, unwitting people’.

In my deepest, darkest days of dealing with my ongoing battle with pain, I chose to stay silent for many reasons. Not a lot of people knew what was going on, but between my husband who was and is my rock, and a very good friend that I chose to be completely honest and real with, and my gp who became quite an advocate for me, I was supported and the actions of those three people spoke volumes to me. They often acted on God nudgings and made me feel loved and accepted.

Another very noteworthy point for me in Greig’s book is the comment ‘Sometimes it’s not enough to tell a suffering friend you’re praying for them. sometimes you have to become the answer to your own prayer’. This doesn’t mean you have to play God, no, to me it means that sometimes there are things you can actually action upon, that will bring practical help to someone and in turn this helps to answer prayer. Say you’ll pray for someone AND visit them. Say you’ll pray for a certain situation AND make them a meal. Pray and do…….be the hands and feet of Jesus. My friend prayed for me when I was with her, and when I wasn’t with her, AND she picked me up and took me and my child on little adventures to give my brain a change of scenery AND she let me cry on her shoulder AND she took me to prayer meetings.  She lent me her strength and her faith when mine wavered.

One of Greig’s paragraphs near the end of the book is this: ‘When we suffer, Jesus comes with questions to refine and enhance our humanity. He of all people understands that this process of dealing with the mess created by our disappointments in prayer can hurt terribly. He knows that without His help, we will become bitter not better, and that we will lick our wounds like a dog or curl up in a ball of self-protection like a hedgehog. But if, like Mary, we will continue to worship, even at the grave of everything we ever believed in, our grief will turn to gold’. Ugh. That speaks to me. Never did I feel so pathetically human, as when I was suffering as I did and experiencing bitter disappointments to prayer. And I tried that whole curling up in a ball of self-protection too, and that didn’t work for me either. What did help was worship. What did help was coming before God time and time again, in all my brokenness, asking for peace, asking for His presence, and all the while looking at the promises that I knew could remain constant, despite my present circumstances.

And you know what? Miracle of miracles I do believe my grief has turned to gold. I’m so much more compassionate as a result of all the dark times in my life. I’m so much more aware of really bad and much better things to say to someone facing trials. I think I’m more patient and understanding of the need to not cast my own skewed perspective on things because I’m certainly not in another’s shoes. I’m acutely aware of my need to constantly offer myself to God’s will and not my own. This is all gold. Learnt the very hard way. Learnt the very long way. But gold nevertheless.

I’ve only highlighted a few of the many points I loved in this book and I do believe this book is a gift to every day, common people. If you’re a Christ follower it will help you wrap your head around some big issues, and it will give you the tools to feel better equipped when those gnarly discussions come your way. If you’re not a Christ follower  it will help you understand just what Easter is all about and why Christians chose to follow this Jesus guy. It is also super helpful that Greig uses language that is easy to understand, you don’t need a theology degree under your belt or a Strong’s concordance by your side.

It’s good to remember journeys, all the journeys. Read this book. And then remember what has already turned to gold for you, and what gold is still to come.

The Equalizer.

I just love my friends. All of my friends. My in real life friends, my social media friends; the people I know from all walks of life, they are all really important to me. I’m even Facebook friends with my OB/GYN from America. That’s not at all weird, right?

Maybe just a tad weird.

But he’s a great guy.

Somehow though, even in the midst of having fantastic real life friends, some who are geographically close and others who are miles and miles away, and plenty of amazing online friends……..there are times when……truth be told…….because of circumstances and situations that I’m in, I can still feel really alone.

Now that’s REALLY WEIRD.

Because I’m not alone.  I know I’m absolutely loved and dare I say, even cherished and fully supported in all I do, and even more importantly, supported in who I am…..but….sometimes I feel a chasm between myself and others…..

And because I’m relatively stable as far as my emotions go (‘relatively’ can be open to interpretation…), and because I wasn’t born yesterday…….I reckon that if I can acknowledge these feelings…….if I can shine the spotlight on the fact that I feel this way…..then I figure that there’s a high likelihood that there’s even something going down in your life, that causes you to feel alone in a crowd.  Something causing you to feel like you’re not quite ‘enough’ or  making you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb….

Maybe you’re the only divorced one in your circle of friends.

Maybe you’re the only one in your inner circle of friends who has a child currently testing the boundaries.

Maybe you’ve just recently made a major lifestyle change, a radical step of faith, and your life is a about to look a lot different to that of your peers.

Whatever your point of difference is……..while it may seem like your life is majorly different to you, I’m pretty sure that these points of difference aren’t even blips on the friendship paths in front of you.  And even while there may be times when you really feel this isolation, stemming from whatever your point of difference may be….I can say with absolute authority……this isolation is 99.5 % self-imagined and 99.5% self-imposed.

We humans are such weird creatures.

Our over-active brains can do so much damage to us.

Ya wanna know why I know this and why I feel I can lay my wretched heart right open in front of you?  Why I can tell you there’s absolutely no need to feel this way?

It’s because of Easter.  Because of what we celebrate this glorious weekend.  It’s because I believe that a man, who lived a blameless life, was nailed up on a cross and died a horrendous death.  This man; Jesus, had his body taken to a tomb, but rose to life again, all because of us.  So that we might have eternal life.  We who choose to believe in Him, will not perish, but have eternal life.

You see Jesus didn’t just die for the educated people.

And it wasn’t for the prettiest of the people.

And it wasn’t for the most popular of the people.

And it wasn’t for the wealthiest of the people.

Nor the happily married ever after people.

Nor the double income, with two point four kids, and a white picket fence people.

No.  At Easter we remember that Jesus died and rose again, for ALL people.

Jesus was the ultimate equalizer.  

Whoever we are.  Whatever we’ve done. Or not done.  Whatever we have or don’t have. All of that is irrelevant in the face of the cross that Jesus died on.  

Whatever my hang ups with life might be, whenever I feel alone because of them, I need to remember that’s just dumb.

Plain dumb.

Whatever your hang ups with life might be, whenever you feel alone because of them, you need to remember that’s just dumb.

I’m worthy.  You’re worthy.  We’re all children of the most amazing God.  Let’s remember that this Easter.

We are not alone.  

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When the sparkle starts to dull.

Here, in my parts at the ends of the earth, we are in week four of a brand new school year. The kids’ school bags do not yet have the crumbs of fifty uneaten sandwiches congregating in the bottom of them, their books are all smooth and flat, however poorly covered they may be (pretty sure there’s a book covering anointing that I most definitely do not possess), and the teachers, oh the teachers, their smiles are genuine and sincere. Sparkly smiles indeed.

The start of a new school year is rather lovely. Crazy, expensive, demanding in some ways, but lovely. But I know that there comes a time when the whole shiny new thing, that is the new year, begins to dull a tad.

Like most things, really. Things, if left to their own devices do tend to dull a little or a lot over time. New jobs quickly become standard jobs, once new skills and requirements for the job have been mastered. New friendships and relationships can become a little too comfortable if you’re not careful.  People can feel taken for granted or unseen and unappreciated, once the sparkle starts to diminish.

I tend to think that if things are sparkly to start of with, then maybe we should all pay a little more attention to keeping that shine there.….that shine helps to keep life interesting, it gives variety and beauty, sometimes it breaths life into something that is otherwise somewhat lacking.

The only items of silverware I possess are a set of salad servers.  Given to my husband and I for an engagement present, these salad servers have moved with us all over the place.  And they have been used by us, all over the place.  And you know, for their first fifteen years of use they were very shiny and sparkly.  And then all of the sudden they weren’t.  I’m sure their dulling process was indeed a process and they just didn’t all of a sudden become dirty overnight.  But that’s how I noticed them.  One time when I used them they were fine.  And then the next time I went to use them, nah, not so fine.

It took about three weeks of writing ‘silver polish’ on the shopping list before the stuff even made it into my groceries, simply because I kept going past the aisle where the polish was kept….and when you’re shopping with small children, there’s no turning back down an aisle is there?  You’re on a mission and there are no detours.  Anyway.  I finally found the polish, purchased it, took it home, and…..eventually….about another three weeks later….finally got around to polishing my silver.  My whole two items of silver.  If you’ve never polished any silver yourself, you may already have some education on the matter thanks to Downton Abbey, but my method is pretty simple really.  You dip your piece of silverware into a ‘silver dip’ solution and then wash the item in soapy water and polish with a soft cloth.  Easy.  Not hugely time consuming, just something that needs to be done, to get the end result that you want.  Something to be intentional about.

So now I have silver dip for my two pieces of silverware, which will keep those salad servers looking as good as new, forever and ever, amen.

Why am I going on about my stinkin’ silver dip?  Well….. a.  It really does stink.  b.  You know the little boy in the movie ‘The Sixth Sense’ who sees dead people everywhere…..I’m in a similar situation…only it isn’t dead people I see, quite the opposite….. I see God at work in various pictures of everyday life.

We have silver dip to remove the tarnish from silverware.  That, armed with a little polish works wonders to restore things to their original and intended state.

In the same vein, I believe that we have things at our disposal to restore us to our original and intended state when life is starting to loose its sparkle, when life is starting to feel less shimmery.

We all have times when the world seems to close in on us. Sometimes genuine smiles are hard to muster up.  Some days we’re in jobs that become so automatic and robotic, that shift after shift can feel the same.  Just as when the school year goes on: sometimes our school books do get bent all out of shape in our schoolbags, the hats get lost and the permission slips that are forever coming across our counters never seem to get to the right person at the right time.  We all experience all kinds of corrosion on our bodies, our minds and souls at various times in our lives.

And that’s ok I reckon.  Blemishes, on all sorts of things is normal.  But restoration is always possible.  

There’s always hope for a piece of silver to be restored to its original shiny state.  There’s always hope for us, to be fully restored.  Fully restored where it comes to relationships. Restored to wholeness in our self-esteem and self-confidence.  Restored to fullness of joy.

As a Christian I believe we have this helper person by our side, the Holy Spirit is his official title.  You see I’ve found I can do things with his help that I know I could’t do in my own strength.  I see the Holy Spirit as my ‘silver dip’ for my soul.  When my body is physically exhausted, sometimes from illness and sometimes simply from the demands of life.  When my mind is drained of positive and happy thoughts.  When I just don’t feel like anything of much around me, including ME is sparkling and shiny…that’s when I know I need to cry out to the Holy Spirit. Help me.  Guide me.  Flow over me.  Flow through me.  May my words bring hope.  May my life bring joy.

That’s the ‘silver dip’ in life, available to each and every one of us….and part two of restoring silverware to its former glory is the ‘polish’ part.  The rubbing gently with a cloth.  That’s where friends are important to me.  Friends become my polishing agent.  Friends who challenge me, who encourage my thoughts and actions, friends whose wisdom and advice can be readily available to me, friends who can smooth over the parts of me that are not yet smooth, the parts I can’t yet see as being beautiful or worthy.  We’re called ‘the body of Christ’…..reliant on each other…..good friends can do so much good for us.

My silver salad servers are looking all righty at the moment, but I’ve got the tools at my disposal to give them a helping hand, whenever I think they need it.  And I’m pretty fortunate that I’ve got the right tools at hand to give my soul a do-over, when I need it. I recommend it you know…….Shiny and sparkly things are better than dull and tarnished…..

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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.

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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.

Fairy Tales and Real Life

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

Fairy tale love belongs only in fairy tales. Right?

Right.

Only. Actually. NOT RIGHT.

Nah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Once upon a time.

Once upon a time there was a handsome young man who was about to marry the love of his life. Throughout the land there was a call brought forth. A certain broadcasting company was seeking participants in a show, people who were willing to share their big day with the nation. The handsome man thought ‘aha, why not?’  For his classmates were already recording the wedding with many cameras, and the love of his life thought ‘t’will be a little risky, but why not?’ for she knew there was a certain cuteness factor to the wedding, with a whole class of children participating by singing in the ceremony.

And thus they filled out some forms and sent them away, to then be chosen to appear on that particular show. The company saw the appeal of the many cameras already, and the cuteness of the children. But, within a short amount of time it appeared that what the company really began to focus on, what they wanted to shine a bright spotlight on, was the fact that the wedding night would prove to be the handsome young man and the love of his life’s first joining of the hearts. Forsooth!

Yep. That there story is true. Many, many years ago my Spunky Hunk of a husband and I, were the couple above. We had tv cameras follow us around in the build up to our wedding…..dress fitting, pre-marital counselling, hen’s party, the works. And then the actual wedding. It was a fascinating experience……for one it helped me understand the work my husband does. He does tv stuff for a living, so this was one way of me getting a quick education on certain things. It was fun getting to know the crew, they were great people.

But it was risky. Hugely risky in a lot of ways. We very quickly realized that the production company was focusing on our christian character. That was the thing that we knew could come across on the actual tv show as either God honouring and could give us a bit of depth and stability, or we could have come across as freaks and we could have been ridiculed across our entire nation.  In the end the shows were put together really well and our story came across with minimal freak factor represented…..probably helped by the fact that other participants in the show were people such as a nudist couple and some other rather colourful characters…

As time went on we learnt that the episodes featuring little old us, were the highest rating shows of the whole series. And here’s the point of this whole post……story. Our story had appeal. People; complete strangers, were interested in what we had to say about love and sex and marriage. It was more than nosey parker people, wanting a peek at a pretty dress and wanting a laugh at these people who were sharing way too much information. People talked about us at their workplaces, giving christian friends opportunities to join in the discussion too. People recognized us, in the most random places, and not once were we made fun of. Our story was respected I think because we had given people food for thought. Not because ‘we’re all that’. Not at all. Not because we’re amazing at all, no, we’re not, but our God is. God used our story for good. God shone through as the hero. We only had to take the risk we did, in sharing our story.

Your story matters too. Whatever it is that God has brought you through, whatever He is teaching you, that matters. Let’s not hesitate in sharing our stories because you never know what someone needs to hear. You never know what struggles those around you are facing. Our job is to plant the seeds, to be available, to be the ones who say ‘yes’ to whatever crazy God idea that comes before us. Then it is up to God to water that seed, to grow that seed. And He has a track record for doing that. Every. Single. Time.

Part of our story did involve lights, cameras and a bit of action. It goes to show that God uses many ways in reaching people. In sharing stories. And the exciting thing is….there are always more stories……we are all works in progress….

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Offence – The Felled Trees

I kinda think that the only way to go through life without ever taking offence at anything, would be if you lived a very isolated, hidden away in a cabin of the woods, self-reliant existence. The truth is, as much as people are kind, generous, encouraging and delightful, sometimes people ain’t all that…..

Sometimes patience is lost, messages are misconstrued, tones are misread……you know..the whole shebang.

We; me, you, everyone, take offence from time to time. Things happen. We feel hurt. And the thing I’ve been challenged by lately is…..what am I gonna do with that offence?

Let’s imagine for a moment that our offence is like a felled log. One of those humongous Redwoods, that once reached long and tall up to the heavens. But now that tree is just a long and lifeless log.

The way I see it is we have two options with that felled tree. We could start up a chainsaw and carve that log up for firewood. Or we could send that log off to a wood processing plant, and that timber could then be used for something practical and helpful, maybe even something beautiful, something that will live on through the decades.

And so it is with offence. Let’s take option one, the firewood. That old felled tree would make quite a bonfire. Quite a gathering could meet around it, they could stay warm and maybe even sing a few rounds of kumbaya. Later on as the embers die down a tad, out could come the marshmallows. But the froth and bubble, the sparks and the pops don’t last forever, and the firestarters are left with a pile of smouldering ashes.

Sometimes we do this with our offence. We make a big song and dance over it. We feed off it, and maybe encourage others to think the same negative thoughts. We want to feel validated, so we don’t hold back on the froth and bubble, the sparks and pops. Go on admit it, it kinda feels good at the time. Like the warmth and glow of a fire is good. But that good feeling doesn’t last. Those flames die down. Unless we pile more felled trees onto our fires. Offence on top of offence. But sooner or later those flames do die down, and we’re left with that pile of dirty ash.

Now let’s look at our other option. Let’s collect all of those felled logs in our lives. You know when you’re hiking a trail and the paths haven’t been cleared after a big storm…and the scrambling it takes to get over and around some of those logs….let’s make life a little easier for those that want to hike the path closer to our hearts. Let’s collect up those trees, all that offence that is such a hindrance, let’s haul them together, load em up on a big old truck, and send them away. Why don’t we exchange those logs for something beautiful? Something that will withstand the tests of time. Something that won’t be a dirty pile of ashes once the spark and pops have died down.

Practically speaking how does this play out? To avoid becoming firestarters with our logs of offence I reckon we need to choose very carefully who we discuss our business with. If we’re picking people to share our inner hurts with, because we know they will be loud and vocal in their support of us….then I reckon that’s maybe not the best way to get some support. That only adds ignition to the flames. The wisest people to share our hurts with are those who seek wisdom from on high, not platitudes from the masses.

If we’re hauling that timber away, then it is out of sight and out of mind for a bit. The temptation to dwell on our issues is not the same. And sometimes the end result of what we get with that treated and crafted timber can be a beautiful reminder of progress, of God’s handiwork if we’re humble enough to say ‘this hurts. I can’t handle it myself. Give me beauty from these ashes Lord. Teach from this dark and vulnerable place I’m in’.

Good things happen when we cry out to God with our hurts.  Transformation happens when we haul our offence away and we let the Master Carpenter shape it into stunning pieces.

We all have felled trees in our lives at different times.  Should we use these for firewood or craftsmanship? That’s our choice.

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