The Right Undercoat.

One of my bosses is building himself an arcade machine from scratch.  He’s built the box for the game, found a monitor for it, has speakers at the ready, and has sourced all the different computer parts for it.  There’s even going to be a slot for putting in coins to play the games (and a way to retrieve them!).  It’s a fun project and he likes telling me how his progress is going.  I can follow the project, but only to a point.  Once he starts talking about different computer components and the way it all communicates and the various cards that hold the hundreds of games he’ll be able to play on this machine, I get a little lost.  I nod and ahh and smile as best I can.  But.  I am pretty clueless.

What’s the last thing you googled?  The last thing I googled was ‘what is the multi-universe theory?’.  One of my kids has done a research project on it and me, being clueless, wanted to learn a little something something, so I could ask my kid a few semi-intelligent questions on the subject.

I (mostly) have a pretty good handle on the things that I know that I know.  And I (mostly) have a pretty good handle on the things that I know I don’t know, although sometimes I get both these things wrong.  But I was thinking the other day that one thing I do know, with all my heart and mind and soul, is that I’m so very grateful that I know the love of God to be true, and I feel that it surrounds me and sets me up for whatever life may chuck at me, as it is the ‘undercoat of paint’ in my very being.

I’m no picasso, and I’ve never painted a wall in my life – you kinda need to own a home to do that – BUT – I got this interesting picture in my head the other day so run with me?

Undercoats of paint serve as a foundation upon which to layer more paint, on your canvas.  Imagine for a moment that you can cover yourself in a layer of love, of dependable, constant love, of agape love (God’s faithful love for us) and on that foundation, other things are attached. On that foundation, the way you think, the way you act is attached.

Undercoats of paint also put a pop of base colour into your work, that allow your final work to be impacted in some way.  Now here’s the thing about painting and layers:  sometimes the top coats of paint don’t end up the way we’re completely happy with. Sometimes the paint is tinted slightly wrong or different to what we may have ordered.  Or the shades are slightly different to how we envisioned they would be when we looked at the paint chip cards.  Or we do big oopsies with our brush strokes and make a mess of things.  And sometimes little finger prints leave marks or bugs fly in and get stuck.  All kinds of things happen to make our end result with the top layers, just not all we want them to be. Life is full of those curveballs that make our lives not what we want or plan for or desire.  But if we’ve got that base layer down as best we can – at least we’ve got a chance of success. At least we’ve got a good foundation for further layers to go on.  At least our base is steadfast and smooth.

If you get your undercoat of paint right, if you can fully accept God’s unending love for you, and kinda ‘cover’ yourself in that, then your final layers of how you see the world, how you respond to situations, how you deal with life, those things are more likely to be positive and helpful.  And it doesn’t actually matter if your top layers of paint are sometimes not quite right, because the good thing about paint is it can be painted over with another layer. Got a sticking point that you’re struggling with?  Try another layer, with a different perspective.

So how am I so assured of God’s love for me?  How can this be one of the things that I know that I know that I know? I choose to believe what I read of God’s love for me in the bible.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic.  Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost:  Not a man, not mouse.

I choose to believe these words and countless others, that talk of God’s love for me.  But these are not just for little ‘ole me – they are for you too.

And I’ve seen His goodness – the signs of His love and care for me.  Time and time again. The gifts that are my children – after I went through seasons of infertility and was told I wouldn’t be able to conceive again.  The gift of a diagnosis, after three years of horrendous pain and ongoing tests.  The provision of material goods after we gave away/ sold nearly everything we owned and moved to another country to follow God’s nudgings for us.  The fact our children don’t hate us and are socially and academically just fine after being moved to two different countries in the space of thirteen months.  These are just a few of the ways I can look at my life and remember just how much my Father God loves me and cares for me.

I look back and I see His goodness and I know His love, and I look forward, and I know there are so many things I still don’t know, and I still may have trouble making the top coat of paint in my thinking all smooth and uniform and just ‘right’, but the undercoat of God’s love is the perfect place to build a good foundation on. God’s love, care and kindness, form brushstroke after brushstroke after brushstroke, on this masterpiece in the making.  And in yours too.

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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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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

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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 Spotlight of Hope. 

Last week we all celebrated having an extra day in the calendar year. The 29th of February. Leap day. It’s a cool but weird thing, right?

Dear friends of mine both celebrate their birthdays on leap day, and one of the many special things about these friends is that they are Mother and Son. Apparently the chances of a Mother and Son both having their birthdays on a leap day are two million to one. Groovy.

Anyway, I was chatting with someone on leap day, about leap day. Let’s call that someone ‘Mr X’.  Mr X was kind of befuddled about the whole leap day thing. He couldn’t work out if having this extra day was in fact a blessing or a curse. Something to be celebrated or something to endure. He came to the conclusion that to him, that extra day we get every four years is really just another day to go through the machinations of life.

And I could see where he was coming from.

Because although Mr X is a great guy; he’s a devoted husband to his wife, and a present and caring Dad to his kids, as well as a good son to his parents and a great buddy to his mates, he is all of this, but, by his own admission he’s living a life with no huge purpose. Just living to get by. Living to provide.

So one extra day, to carry on, carrying on……..that’s a little depressing, right?

Believe it or not our conversation was light hearted, and we both ended up having a bit of a laugh over this extra day weird weird weird business. But I’ve been thinking about the conversation ever since.

I think the biggest difference between my view of an extra day to live, and Mr X’s view, comes down to the very fact that I live with a greater sense of Hope. To me it’s a cool thing to have had that extra day, because it’s another day to be alive. Another day to admire God’s creation. To adore His creativity. To embrace the fact that I get to love my family and to reach out to others I see, to offer encouragement, and speak and write words of life.

Hope. It makes all the difference in the world.

And so, this is my heart’s cry, because I’ve seen Gods fingerprints of grace and I’ve seen the spotlight of hope beam in front of my path, time and time again.

I’ll never forget the time I was driving at night and a man stepped out in front of my car, forcing me to stop, and then he tried to climb in to the car. Being a Christ follower doesn’t mean that the world is never a scary place.  But it does mean that when we walk through the waters, God will be there.

I’ll never forget the anguish and heartache I felt at having to have my unborn, life-less baby taken from my body, and the recovery process that my weakened then forty kg body had to go through. Yes I suffered through thoughtless words from some but I was also offered plenty of hope, through those who were present, and as the Father heart of God became truly alive for me. As I learned first hand that God grieves when we grieve. Christ followers are not immune to hardships in any way, shape or form, but we have do have a blessed assurance in the form of a ‘peace that passes all understanding’. We learn that things don’t always have to make sense.

I’ll never forget the utter loneliness and all the feelings of self-doubt and self-criticism that came with being ‘new’ time and time again. But paired with that, I also know the freedom of finding my tribe, finding my people. Of relaxing into who I am, and knowing that is enough. Of being offered hope in the forms of being loved and accepted, just as I am.

And because I know what real hope is, I know what it is to be loved with an everlasting love. I know that this gal, who still second guesses herself way too much and says all the wrong things at all the wrong times, and feels vastly inadequate for all the things she dreams of doing……this girl has hope. Hope that enables me to smile genuinely even when the going is tough. Hope that comes in the form of energy when there really by all accounts should be no fuel in her engine. Hope to offer love to all.

And so the leap day we had last week was the gift of an extra day. An extra day to spread a little Hope.

Today was another day to speak words of life, words of hope.

And tomorrow will be another day, full of opportunities to breath life into dry bones.

If you don’t truly feel this way, if you feel a little like my friend, Mr X, I get it. Life is a messy and hard thing. But for me, the messy and the hard becomes tidier and easier, when I choose to believe that God grieves when we grieve, that His presence is for accessible for all, and I’m loved and accepted with an everlasting love. People say to give peace a chance, I say ‘give hope a chance’. Read a bible. Talk to a friend who is a Christ follower. Reach out to God. He’ll meet you where you’re at. This I know.

Hope changes things. It gives purpose and adds value. What an incredible gift.

~ In loving memory of a friend who lived a hope-filled life, and embraced each day as the gift that it truly is ~

When breathing is a struggle.

Sometimes when my littlest guy isn’t feeling the best he’ll creep into my bed at night and snuggle in. With his ninja like ability to sneak under the covers, avoiding Dad’s side of the bed, he ensures that his place beside me is secure. 

My boys are for the most part pretty healthy little dudes, but the youngest, if he’s not going to be well, it does always seem to affect his breathing.

So sometimes he curls into my side, and I wrap my arm around him. I let him know I’m there. He doesn’t need to worry. I can hear the tightness in his chest. The crackling deep down. Sometimes it takes a bit of soothing before there’s a better flow to his breathing, before there’s an ease, and once again he’s breathing deeply and evenly. 

Grief can sneak up on us, just like the struggle to breathe. 

Sometimes we just don’t expect it. We’re moving forward, just getting on with life, when all of a sudden, the simple things, like breathing, just don’t seem so simple any more. 

We grieve for the past. For losses and offenses, for misunderstandings and misconstrued situations.

We grieve for the present. For wrong choices and missed opportunities, for having to live with less than our ideal.

And we grieve for our futures. For that which won’t come to pass.

When we lived in Oregon we were only an hour and a half down the road from Roseburg, where a terrible shooting took place last week. We have friends in that town and many of our immediate circle of friends have close ties to that town. To say this has rocked theirs and our worlds would be an understatement. 

Today the University in the town immediately next to our American home town has been shut because of an unconfirmed threat. Yesterday the community college and library in our town was evacuated because of a bomb threat. Even here in New Zealand, authorities have been investigating threats at three of our Universities. There is madness all around us it feels. 

My social media feeds are full of opinions of all the extremes, in regards to guns and laws and restrictions. I know enough about the bigger picture situation to know that there is so much I don’t know. While I know I’m entitled to  an opinion, my own social media posts will never be about that for I feel we need hope more than we need opinions.

Perspectives are so varied and everyone feels justified and riled up and the need to be heard. 

But in the meantime, people are struggling to breathe. 

People are grieving. 

While opinions surround us, let’s give the gift of presence.

 Let’s be that shoulder, that strength when there is no strength. Yes, for people affected by recent tragedy, but in a broader sense too. For the people around us, wherever we might be. 

When my little guy seeks comfort in the night, when his chest is tight, I find myself holding him close and even though I am perfectly healthy, before I know it my chest is starting to feel a little tight and I feel a little pain, as I sync up with his breathing pattern. 

And so it is with people. Feeling each other’s pain. Being there for each other. And in a greater sense, I know that as we grieve, the Father grieves. The Lord is near to the broken hearted, and saves those whose spirits are crushed.

Whatever grief you’re facing, whatever hurts are held deep down in your chest, making it hard to breathe….you’re not alone. There’s a loving God who is hovering close, who wants to embrace you, to let you know there’s no pain too awful for Him to bear with you. Ask Him, seek Him, invite Him near. He longs to come close. 

Opinions can wait, presence can not. Presence helps the breathing to flow, deeply and evenly. This I know. 

  

With grace kissed cheeks.

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

Then Love swooped down.

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

The bossy kid.  That’s leadership ability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fionacharis.com

Life Interrupted

Wouldn’t it be nice if life ran to our agenda, to our timetable? Wouldn’t it be nice to be in total control of the events of our days? But we’re not. And life, especially with little people in the picture, has many an interruption to its flow.
I’ve just done a little stint as a solo parent…not my favourite thing in the world, but when the Spunky Hunk’s work beckons him away, away he must go. Thankfully it doesn’t happen much….but every time it does it makes me realize how amazing the people are that have to parent by themselves day in and day out. When you’re the only person brushing little people’s teeth, washing dishes and reading stories – it gets tiring. And the interruptions that happen to your day seem even more frustrating. So I’ve been working on this.
When I have to pull out the toaster for yet another round of toast, just after I’ve put it away, I’ve been working on holding in that sigh.
When World War Three is erupting just as I sit down for a hot cup of tea, then I’ve been working on putting on my best diplomat’s hat and being reasonable, instead of erupting myself into Grumpy Mum.
When the kids are wanting a turn on the computer and I’m in the middle of ‘stalking’ my friends and their news on facebook, I’ve been working on setting up time limits and sharing properly.
Funny how it is the 37 year old who needs to learn how to share properly huh.

So I’m working on how I react to my interruptions. Working on the first response that I give to people. Working on my attitude.

Who is the best role for this? Jesus of course. I’ve been thinking about how his days were interrupted all the time. Here he is, on a three year mission to reach as many people as possible, and his days just keep getting interrupted. Wherever he goes people want a piece of him. The woman with the issue of blood. Jairus with his dead daughter. Simon’s mother-in-law. The list goes on. Jesus could go nowhere without sick people coming to him for healing, the task of providing enough food for the crowds that followed him and he can’t even attend a wedding, a joyous time of celebrating, without being called on to perform a miracle.

Yet Jesus didn’t hesitate before reaching out and helping. He faced his interruptions with love and grace and patience, and long -suffering. I’m sure he didn’t sigh with frustration either outloud or inwardly as I so often do.

In fact he turned his interruptions into opportunities to illustrate the Father’s love. To provide real answers and to fulfill real needs. The very interruptions that I face can be the same – they can be the opportunities I have every day to illustrate real love and patience with my family and friends. To show them that this life is not about ME and my needs and agenda, but rather about Him and me becoming more like Him.

That is my prayer today. That my interruptions become my opportunities.