Staying The Course – Encouragement For The Weary Soul

25th October 024

What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

James 5:11 (MSG)

Whether we’re waiting for spring, enduring a ‘stage’ with one of your children, writing a book or working through a health challenge, there is always an opportunity in each season of life to ‘stay the course’. I find myself saying this repeatedly to young, sleep-deprived mothers and home educating mothers in their early years, I whisper for them to not grow weary in doing good because in due season they WILL reap a harvest of righteousness (Gal 6:9). And it is the habit of remember this and treasuring that truth in our hearts that keeps our feet firm, our naps long and our coffee cups full!

I want to encourage you on this January Monday morning that you CAN do this; the light is in sight and God has given you everything you need to seek out his face through the fog, to take the next step forward and to feel Him breathing hope back into your heart again.

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. Prov 4: 25 – 27

Whatever you’re facing today you can rest assured that God is bigger and is interested in the details of what you’re carrying. The Apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the church in Philippi not to be anxious about anything but to pray about everything; and there lies your invitation for God to invade your soul with peace, a peace that blows our mind every time, a peace that guards our hearts and our heads. A peace that will never be fathomed, never be explained, never be understood but is just as real as the nose on our face.

A peace that doesn’t eliminate the ‘problem’, but injects hope into our path.

Here are three things that have helped me stay the course and given room for God to graciously guide me through the sticky and the messy and the hard.

Gratitude 

We can’t get enough of this can we? Everyone from Benedictine monks to businessmen are telling us that gratitude is a major key to success and happiness! God has been whispering this to us since the beginning of time, to always be thankful – but His idea of thankful was not about selfish endeavour and personal outcome, it was and is about worship. Turning our hearts to gratitude turns our hearts to Him, it takes our eyes off ourselves and fixes our face on His, and when we look full into His face the things of this world really do go strangely dim. What can you truly thank God for today?

Perspective

My friend often uses the phrase ‘first world problem, third world win’ when people complain about their TV breaking or a long queue in the coffee shop; but isn’t it true that so many things we get anxious or stressed about, when given a bit of perspective, lift and fade in importance! I’m not saying that what you’re facing today isn’t real or hurting you but I’ve found (and I guess it links to gratitude) that when I consider those ‘worse off’ my perspective changes, I pray for them, my focus changes and heart is lighter.

So when you’re exhausted and up in the night for the fifth time breastfeeding your hungry nursling remember the couples who are longing and praying for children; whose wombs, hearts and hands are longing for a baby of their own and turn your cries to calls of hope and breakthrough for them.

Community

And finally – don’t go at it alone. So often when we’re struggling and we’re deep in the murky mire of life we want to run and isolate ourselves. I know this for real, both personally and as  a church pastor, I see it all the time. But it never helps. Get around those who love and support you and allow God to use His church to help YOU stay the course. God designed us to walk together as a mighty force to be reckoned with. Vulnerability is hard and painful – the enemy loves us to hide in it and stay silent, but God has called us out of the corners and has given us each other, in all our messy mistake making ways, to be there, to hold up each other’s arms and to win this battle.

Give the church a chance – don’t be silent in your story.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Phil 4:6

So, face up today mama, heart to Him – let’s do this!

No Shame In Being The Same! Ordinary Girl Speaks Out…

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In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they are still beautiful – Alice Walker

I love the hashtag #nothingisordinary; it speaks of detail, insight and beauty from the most overlooked things in life. I can easily hashtag a fallen leaf, a ticked off ‘to do’ list or completed pile of folded laundry (certainly not ordinary) but can we hashtag ourselves?

I grew up in a peaceful home in Yorkshire with God fearing parents who loved and nurtured my siblings and I all the same. I am the middle child; sister of an outgoing, bold and brilliant older brother and an incredibly talented, creative and feisty little sister. I was happy, content but just went with the flow of my ‘ordinary’ life. I was never a high achiever, pretty average across the board really, but scraped the exam results I needed to get me through to the next phase of education. I loved to sing and was part of the choir; I remember eagerly anticipating a performance that we had worked hard towards, on the day of the concert our soloist fell ill and the choir master needed a stand-in to do her part. I knew it well and had good singing ability, but they went with Claire, the head-girl at the time, because she could ‘project’. Fortunately my parents and my faith had instilled a strong spirit – I still sing to this day (smile) #quietgirlswins

I was never the prettiest, the thinnest or the trendiest girl; I discovered make-up later into my teens, finally got through my Gloria Estefan perm stage and only once wore my brothers jeans for a ‘non-uniform’ day because he was trendy (I was a bit before the times with the ‘boyfriend’ jeans trend).

I didn’t grow up in the world our children are facing today; I didn’t scroll through the daily outward expectations of society before breakfast but we all faced peer pressure, even without Pinterest. It’s not that different now, just deeper.

But I was ok with ‘ordinary’. I was ok because I knew a hidden work was taking place; it was whispered to me daily. I stayed close to His heart.

I was shy an untapped introvert with a deep developing soul life, I was loved, encouraged and actually, I never felt ordinary.

In Annie Dillard’s ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek‘ she intricately describes her 25 cent goldfish swimming around in his bowl on her desk as she writes. She unfolds the cellular make-up and the God formed gills of this very normal life form that lives in thousands of homes across the globe. Dillard’s description is a beautiful example of honing in on the ordinary and revealing the wonder.

And isn’t that what God does? He pays attention to the intricate design of who we are and what we’re made of; He fully and mindfully forms the finite detail of our lives.

Psalm 139 shouts louder than the screams from our screens; those words turn our wailing to wonder. He wants us to hear the click click click of those knitting needles that patterned our purpose and stitched our soul, but it doesn’t sound like the clash of metal on metal, it sounds like a heartbeat. His heartbeat.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb

So I’m sure that ‘ordinary’ isn’t a word that God ever uses to describe His kids but I know that He uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways.

You’re an ordinary wonder, created and to be celebrated; used and fused with the life YOU live and love.

So I guess it’s true, nothing is ordinary, and neither are you.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Col 3:2

Advent – He Is Coming

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Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present – Edward Hays

Our lives are marked with moments and monuments of celebration and gratitude for who God is and what He has done in our lives. Christmas is no different I guess but instead of walking this Christian existence in homes and pockets across our cities, in this season, the whole of the western world are trying to make sense of what Christmas is and means. As Christ followers we get to inject meaning into the those moments and memories.

This Christmas I want to celebrate not consume; I want to open my heart and my home and make Him room.

I want to minimize the crazy and maximise Christ

For the past 6 or so years we’ve walked the advent journey with the Jesse Tree, inspired by Ann Voskamp. Even before the glossy book and the pottery ornaments we used her printables and taught my children that through Genesis to the manger His name is whispered – He is coming. Advent.

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We take time every day to read, reflect and place our ornament upon the tree.

Each card, each ornament represents a story through the old testament, a story which represents His character, his coming and our calling to draw Him close. Each story talks of the power of God throughout history, His redemption and salvation for His people. His amazing way of taking what was broken and almost gone, damaged destroyed and making it whole again.

Whatever your tradition or expression at this time is , give Him room. We’re not only preparing our hearts for a birthing but also the dawning of a new year. Consider now what God has done, contemplate what He has ahead for you and allow Christ to do His transforming work in your life.

Let me encourage you at the beginning of advent to allow His peace into your pace, to slow down and give Jesus some space.

Stay in the story.

 

 

Displacing Worry For Wonder – A Devotional

25th October 024

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything – The Bible

I love God’s Word; it shapes, guides and creates patterns in my life that make me more like Him. The Bible is so far from a dry and irrelevant text, it is living and active, and if you let it do its work in your life it NEVER returns void. Hear it, speak it and allow it to go deep, to sooth your soul, strengthen your spirit and blow upon those glowing God embers in your heart.

We can’t do Christian life without it – so open it today!

Twice a month we gather our Connect group in our home; we sit around cake, tea and God’s Word and share what we see and what He is saying. I not only love this bringing together of community and family but I love seeing one verse come to life before our eyes through simply allowing time and space to talk about it. Conversation is a catalyst.

25th October 022

I was reminded of one of my favourite verses in the bible, a verse that I live by and put into practice daily, here it is in The Message:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Philippians 4

This Pauline instruction to the Philippians is poignant and pivotal to our lives and our daily walk. At the end of verse 5 Paul states ‘the Lord is near’, followed by ‘do not worry’. What an incredible statement to surround this whole section of scripture, before we even start talking about your worry and what to do about it, remember, the Lord is near!

The fact that we know that He is near then urges us to follow the next instruction, ‘do not worry’, instead of carrying worry, turn all that emotion and distraction into prayer. I’ve learnt to practice this, I’ve created a devotional default when my heart is heavy. When something is going on in my life that is distracting and dissolving me into a bit of hot mess, I pray. Declaring first that I know He is near, I then pour out everything I’m feeling, carrying and burdened with to my Father God, who loves to listen. And what does He do? He doesn’t promise to fix it, make it all better and resolve it as we would want with our earthly understanding, no – but He does replace our heavy heart with His gift of peace. His overwhelming, life transforming calm that we can’t fathom or start to understand. He allows us to walk in wholeness and freedom with a light heart DESPITE our situation.

He brings calm to our chaos, stillness to our striving and turns our worry into wonder.

Talk to the Father today, open His Word and be transformed.

You are loved.

Loving this song at the moment; may it bless you today!