(Don’t) Go compare

Over the past couple of days, the song from THAT advert has been literally stuck in my head. It has been incredibly irritating and I have tried nearly everything to get it out- worship music, radio, nursery rhymes- and nothing could get rid of it. Kudos to the guys who made it up- they knew what they were doing!

But today as I was once again at my kitchen sink washing the dishes (God speaks to me an unusual amount here)- I felt God start to show me the cost of the message of this song.

We live in a culture that is constantly inviting us to go compare. If you are buying a car, never mind the joy in the fact that you can actually afford one- you are encouraged to look on comparison sites to check out how its features compare with another before you make your choice. And we can compare so much nowadays that before long, our entire lives will be marked by comparison- and that’s where it gets dangerous.

While there is nothing wrong with trying to get the best deal, there is something deeply disturbing about living a life of comparison. Comparison breeds discontent- if we are constantly invited to go compare, we will never, ever, be satisfied. There will always be a part of us that leaves us wondering whether we shouldn’t have held on THAT little bit longer for a better deal, better holiday, better spouse…and from that vantage point, joy is ultimately impossible.

In the past I have struggled with comparison- and in the present- yes, even now, I have found it hard at times, especially as a writer (first time i’ve publicly called myself that)- not to compare my writing style to others- or even my style, period.

As a woman, I often wonder how my clothes compare with others, or my hairstyle or my shoes..the list goes on. As a mum, how my children’s behaviour compares to others or how their progress or academic performance is, in comparison to their peers. Or as a Christian, how my life measures up against all the other amazing people i see around me. The thing is, whenever I have allowed myself to dwell in the valley of comparison- whenever I have gone shopping for more, because my trolley doesn’t seem as attractive- I have never come back happier; I have always felt emptier and unhappy about life. And that is the opposite of God’s plan.

I have noticed that whenever the need to compare comes in, it is most always, for me, rooted in fear. Fear that whatever aspect of life I feel the need to measure simply doesn’t measure up.

But that is simply not the truth. The truth is God has a plan for you as He does for me. And it is good, and exciting, but most importantly, it is unique. Comparison whispers the lie that the plan that He has for others is better- in fact the plan that He has for me is just as good and it is tailor. In a world that is inviting us to go compare, I feel instead that the antidote is gratitude. Because there is always someone wishing that they had what you had, comparing their lives to yours.

So instead of going off to compare, what can you be grateful for today?

My heartbeat

I am a passionate lover of people. Once, when asked in an interview what my greatest strength was, I answered, unashamedly: ‘people’- to the surprise of the serious-faced corporate person across from me. Thankfully she did allow me to elaborate on my answer, and because it was a heartfelt, genuine answer, she bought into it!

I do very much love people. ALL people. I love speaking to the cashier at the supermarket and asking her about her day; I like talking to the lady (or gentleman) sat next to me on the bus, I like smiling at babies and generally always start a conversation with their mums and find out how old their wonderful treasures are, which then leads to questions about their sleep patterns and eventually birth stories.

I guess it helps that I am also incredibly nosy; I hate not being in the know about anything. But I am genuinely interested in everyone’s stories, much to the chagrin of my introverted husband (sorry babe! #notsorry)

As a child, I was always tuned in to conversations that I wasn’t supposed to be listening to; and my parents found this quality about me incredibly dangerous. If they were sharing any information of great importance or secret, I would be listening. And as a child, I generally used to then repeat said confidential information! Not good for a couple who were regularly entrusted with most of their congregation’s secrets!

Growing up, this gift to listen and to be interested opened a lot of doors for me; but it wasn’t always my favourite thing about myself. Sometimes i’d really want to connect with someone. And the best way for me to do that is generally to ask a LOT of questions. And occasionally, people would misinterpret my interest for something not kind. As an interrogation, or as nosiness-and as they’d reject my friendship, this would really hurt. But each and every time, I would always get right back in, talking to people again- because it is my heartbeat.

Someone asked me once how I relax after a long and busy day; yesterday was a long and busy day.

I had spent the morning  with OFSTED and being observed  teaching at College , after picking up my son and dropping him off at home to my tooth-achy husband,  I left for my second (the best in the world )job in the afternoon showing some visitors from Swansea around some projects that we work with in Manchester.

After dropping them off at their accommodation for the night I headed home to eat dinner, spend time with my children and husband and collapse on the sofa with a cup of tea, right? wrong!

After food, I realised that we had a parenting course that I had forgotten about but could cancel- but I am energised BY people. So the thought of giving up an evening of connecting with a new group of parents and exchanging anecdotes about the struggles of parenting was just too much of a temptation for me. So at 7pm, I was back in my car for the fourth time, heading out. To connect. With people. People. My strength. My weakness. My heartbeat.

There are times when I have quite frankly felt like I had nothing to give. Especially when i’m surrounded by people with incredible gifts- people who can sing, dance, people who are incredibly artistic, driven, organised, and efficient. I can quite honestly say that I have never felt efficient.  or organised. The only thing I have ever really felt good at, was talking to people. Little did I know that this was the stick that God had given me that later, He would turn into a staff.

Today, I had the privilege of asking my Swansea visitors what their heartbeat was. It isn’t an easy question to answer. But they both knew what truly makes their heart beat. That thing that makes them feel alive. That makes them feel like they could stay up longer because of it. And when they naturally reversed the question, I didn’t have to think about it- I already knew. Because from a very young age, I have always loved being with people. talking with people. Hearing their stories. Making connections. And that, honestly, makes my heart beat.

What is yours?

 

Exodus 4: 2-3

Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied.

The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”

 

Start with kindness. ..

Before the end of 2015 my husband and I noticed something about ourselves that was both upsetting to realise and humbling to admit.  Amid the busyness of everyday life,  we had forgotten how to speak kindly to each other and to our children.  I first noticed it when we were both helping to get our two ready for school and nursery and ourselves for our work day;  I was in the kitchen ironing a shirt and my husband was telling our distracted six year old to put her tights on, an instruction,  which by now was basically yelled rather than given.  I flinched at the loudness of my husband’s booming voice and immediate knew I didn’t approved of that tone. ..I hate shouting.  So how had this problem come to sit in our house?  Ironically a few minutes later the tables were turned and I was shouting angrily at my children to both stop messing with the fireplace and to locate their shoes.  Didn’t they know we were running LATE? ??
As we walked out of our house that morning I realised two things; we were all angry and we were all unhappy.  It was a terrible lesson in how not to start your day.
That night I came home remorseful about our awful start to the day and tried my best to make it up to my little family.  After the kids went to bed,  my husband and I finally sat down and addressed the elephant in the room.  We had to admit it to each other and to God.  We had turned into angry people,  yelling parents and frankly not nice; individuals. We repented and asked God to help us and to show us where we needed to improve.
The next day and in fact that whole week our days were a little similar but less intense but slowly God began to show both of us areas that needed to change.
As we listened to the holy spirit we realised that kindness was missing massively in our dealing with everyday life. We just wanted things done and quickly,  and didn’t always take care of people involved along the way. And sadly,  God showed us first hand how this was creating a negative impact on the children.  And how a lot of the things we bribed,  begged and coxed them to do could all simply be solved by one ingredient; Kindness.
And so on the first of January 2016,  we felt led to start our days in our house with kindness. What followed both shocked and amazed us.
Before this,  we’d practised memory verses with our children at bedtime. On this occasion though,  we felt God leading us to a specific verse that we were to write on our hearts as a family and use as a basis of our new season.

In Proverbs 16:24 it says: “kind words are a honeycomb;  sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. ”
Because our issues were speaking to the kids unkindly mostly when we were stressed and running late,  we found this verse really helpful in highlighting the importance of reversing this in our house. We wanted our words to be sweet to the soul and to bring healing,  not stress.

We felt led to do two main things:

1. Wake up half an hour earlier and begin our day with 5 minutes of praising God (good word from Ben Jeffrey when he spoke here)- therefore beginning our day with gratitude followed by reading the bible together as husband and wife.
2. Ensuring that every word that left our lips towards children and each other was uplifting.

Now, I have to let you in on two things; our days start early in our house anyway. The kids generally push the doors of our bedroom open between 6:30 and seven,  and generally act as our alarm clock.  The other thing is,  I’m so NOT a morning person.  Honestly.  I am a complete grump. So when I’m woken up,  I’m cranky,  irritated and irritable. So to wake up earlier was probably not going to go down very well with me.
But Jesus is so kind to us, it says in Matt 11:28 that his “yoke is easy and (his) burden light). So when we woke up half an hour earlier,  we would stay in bed and do our devotion from there.  I could handle that.  That was better. Easier.  And on the first day we tried it the children woke up as they generally did but this time,  when they barged into our room,  mummy and daddy were already awake, reading the Bible and in a better mood.  So they crawled into bed with us and snuggled into us as we took turns going through the HTB One Year Bible and devotional.
And that first day,  as we made our way down stairs as we always did,  something small had changed.  And it was lovely. I noticed that I was genuinely smiling as i made my way to breakfast. And I was encouraged and optimistic about our ‘month of kindness. But the following few days,  in fact the first three weeks,  things actually got worse in our house. It seemed that all our efforts to try and be kind were just not working.  I felt more frustrated and angrier than ever. My husband too.  It was terrible.  We’d do well for a few days and then fall off the wagon for a few more. It was like we’d invited anger into our home by deciding to be kind. The first few weeks were just marked with mistakes and constant sorrys often spoken remorsefully after failing to speak kindly.  And we’d hug and start again.  We considered giving up.  But we felt supernaturally pressed to carry on.
And then on day 21, (it takes 21 days to form a habit,  scientists say) as I stood in the kitchen washing the dishes my daughter walked in and began to star jump and shout as she often does and I wasn’t paying that much attention to her until I realised what she was shouting. ..

She was saying “I’m powerful,  I’m wonderful,  I’m smart,  I’m beautiful,  I’m a good sister. ..I’m a good friend. ..” and she went on like that for over ten minutes declaring positive words over herself.  It was remarkable!  As I stood there,  where I’d just been feeling like we were failing this assignment,  tears flowed freely down my face as I realised what God means in the verse when He says that “kind words. ..are healing to the bones”
What a beautiful illustration of why we had to keep doing this!
So the few days after that anger and all negative words began to lessen in our speech and our home.

I’m not saying we’re there yet at all. .I actually wasn’t going to share this as today was a major fail from start to finish. ..we’re still learning.  But as I got ready to deactivate my social media accounts for lent, I felt led to share this for someone who perhaps is on the same journey as us and might be wondering what to give up or take up for lent.  And to genuinely encourage you; why not start with kindness?

Below is a powerful video about the power of kind words…I love it! #KindnessGoals

Because you’ve always stood up for me….

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My family and I recently had to deal with a lot following a difficult Summer. Some of you will be more than aware of it so I won’t go through the details again but one thing that was very very apparent through it all was how held we felt. At times when it was really difficult we felt really held together by the arms of love.

I remember the day when we were due to attend court to hear the case of the lady who  crashed into us. I was a nervous wreck, and shook like a leaf all the way to Buxton Magistrates, where the hearing was to be held. I almost lost it as we drove along very similar roads that we’d crashed on, and flinched each time a car approached ours from the opposite direction at high speeds. I was a real mess.

And I remember the anger I felt as sentence was passed and I realised that there would be no mandatory rehab sentence in place, nor a substantial ban placed on this lady who had nearly taken the lives of my entire little family in one drunken accident but who, a few years prior had also been charged with a similar crime involving another family and other children…

I remember feeling so cheated by the system, and crying from my gut, feeling as though no one had stood up for us. For me. It has taken all our courage to get to this courtroom; my heart was broken. On the drive home I was quiet,my husband and I both in disbelief. We didn’t want or expected a jail term, in fact we’d prayed for the opposite… What we wanted was justice. And justice,in our eyes, would have involved some time for this lady to deal with her alcohol issues, which she’d admitted were out of control as well as a good amount of time without her licence to allow for her to get to trips with healing from this, which she’d expressed a desire for.

I spent a few weeks wrestling with my own feelings and unable to pray through the anger and disappointment that I felt. And then when I could finally muster up the strength, I  asked God the question that had been weighing on my mind. As I asked Him: “if the courts and lawyers don’t stand up for us, God, who then does??”

And the answer came through two formats. The first was through a song that I played over and over again that helped me find the strength to surrender. In this song God asked me to “come to him”- to let him be my anchor in the wind and the rain. And this became easier as I listened to this song, over and over.

The second answer came through him speaking to me directly and telling me that HE stands up for me. He fights for me. He’s the greatest judge, friend and ultimate father that I need. And he was on my side.

And as I took in those words, I slowly learned to step in the rhythms of grace again. I was able to let go of the anger that was weighing me down. The hurt and pain that I felt melted away the more he whispered words of healing over me and I gave him my pain for his love.

It was a daily exchange. Sometimes hourly. But he keep on inviting me day after day.
Some days it was really hard to trust. Or to give away my hurt. I wanted to hold onto it. Part of me felt justified so I wanted to wallow a bit. But if I wanted to get free, to play again, I had to allow him to stand up for me because I couldn’t do it for myself. And as I stood back and truly let God stand up for us I was able to rest and recuperate. And when I woke up, I was ready to dance and sing and laugh and play.

I came across this verse as I was reading Lioness Arising today by Lisa Bevere (great great book)-

Because you’ve always stood up for me, I’m free to run and play”. (Psalm 63: 7)

What a beautiful verse! As I read it, it illustrated exactly what happened to me when I learned to lean on God all over again this summer. As I gave him my anger over the injustice I felt, I rediscovered anew so much of myself. Not that I’m completely there yet, far from it! But what happened was a remarkable rediscovery of the joy of lost. And the freedom that had vanished- the confidence that was stolen- it all began to come back as I went to him in my anger and truly gave my fears to him.

There is a song that says He gives….beauty for ashes…strength for fear….gladness for mourning… Peace for despair… The beautiful exchange! And I never knew how freeing it is when we gladly come to him and say, I really want to hold onto this, God. They really hurt me. And they deserve my anger… My blank stares…my venomous replies on Facebook…. But here it is…take it…and turn it into something beautiful. And you know what? He will. He did. He does.

Because you’ve always stood up for me, I’m free to run and play”. (Psalm 63: 7)

Isaiah 61:3
To all who mourn in Israel,[a]
    he will give a crown of beauty for ashes,
a joyous blessing instead of mourning,
    festive praise instead of despair.
In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks
    that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

Christmas begins…

Today we officially entered the Advent season, marking, in our house, the true beginning of Christmas.  But if I’m to be perfectly honest, it’s been Christmas in our house for a couple of weeks now. (We) absolutely love Christmas and my husband would probably contest the ‘we’ in this, but in our house, we LOVE decorating early, planning early and really maximising this wonderful season. Over the years as our children have grown older, we’ve tried to make it more about Jesus and less about the other stuff. But it hasn’t always been easy. It is so hard not to get pulled into the commercialism of Christmas and get dazzled by bright lights, gorgeous seasonal coffees, lovely food and let’s be honest, the mince pies.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been memorising Scripture as a family for various reasons that I talked about here last week. But the main reason we’ve been trying to do that is because we are trying to write God’s word on our hearts in a world that is trying to pull us in with reason, opinion and practice that might conflict with what God wants us to focus on. As we ended the week, another  American tradition seemed to have permanently been welcomed into the UK. Black Friday returned for the second year running and apparently was as popular if not more so than last year. As we drove home from the school run on Friday, I heard a newscaster refer to this frenzy in the shops as the ‘true mark of the Christmas season’. I sincerely hope not.

As we enter into the season of Advent, we probably won’t be able to avoid taking part in all of the things associated with the commercialisation of Christmas. I know many people who try really hard and manage really well to stay away from all of it and to keep Christ at the very centre of Christmas. But unfortunately, as a family, we’re not able to do that yet. But tonight as we reflected on the past week and my daughter excitedly pointed out that they get their advent calendars this week, I felt the Holy Spirit prompt me to begin this Advent season differently and to continually, over the next 25 days,  explore the ‘why’ of Christmas.

And while chocolate is great and presents are good, to us, to those who know Jesus, it must remain about Him. Because He was born to us. And I feel in many ways that this is how we should begin this Advent season; by looking at what is considered a normal Christmas and realise that to us, It is different. And to realise that He wasn’t just born to stay in the manger but he came with purpose. Isaiah talks about how ‘the government will be on  His shoulders’, bearing a name that is higher than any other name or any other kingdom.

This is especially good news this week as our government debates on a strategy for war that would make the Prince of Peace sad. But the good news is that because he wears the government on His shoulders, we can go to him with the issues of ours and He can fix it. For to us, He is more than just a baby in a wooden nativity scene at the local shopping mall, more than the presents we’ll fill our cars with, more than the decorations we’ll untangle tomorrow, or the John Lewis advert on our TV we’ve gathered to watch each year now and shed a tear over. He means more than the reason for ordering a ‘seasonal coffee’ or the reason we’ll have turkey this year. And chicken. And lamb. And beef. And fish. And that’s just my house. We celebrate Him because he sits at the centre of the season. And when He does, He brings wonderful counsel, and a reign of everlasting peace. To us, Christmas begins first and foremost, with Christ. 

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Memory verses

At the beginning of October my husband and I started memorising verses from the Bible with our kids. While this is what most Christian parents probably already do with their children, we realised, albeit a bit later than we’d hoped, that while we read the Bible with our children every night and encouraged them to dance and sing to their hearts’ content to Worship music (Twelve24 is our favourite) and while we taught them to pray before every meal and pray before they go to bed, we had subconsciously neglected to remind them to memorise scripture.

Growing up, my parents taught us very early on how to use scripture in our every day living. I can remember clearly times when we would wield cute sword as we practised using the ‘Sword of the Spirit’. And it really helped me a lot when I was younger. I remember at night being so afraid of the dark and reminding myself that ‘He has not given me the spirit of fear…’. Or my first night alone at boarding school remembering that ‘He will not leave (me) nor forsake me..’- memorising scriptures at times saved me from worrying about things that God asked me to hand directly to Him. A weapon that has been invaluable to me.

So when my daughter kept waking up at night saying she was scared, instead of remembering what helped me when I was in that situation, I contemplated buying a night light- or even sometimes would escort her back to bed amid reassurances from me that she would be fine and that she was safe- nothing wrong with both of those things, in fact I highly recommend reassuring our children whenever we get the chance. But what I realised the other day was that there was a way that was better than what we were doing; and that lay entirely in teaching her Scripture.

And so, we made a decision to begin to memorise key verses together that applied directly to our situation. In this instance, it was fear of the dark.  And actually it was a lot of fun! we came up with a rap together and that helped the words sink in quicker and because the rap was easy to remember, she managed to recite it perfectly to me that day and the next day and the next day, until the day came when she was afraid in bed and as usual got up and came to our room.

But unlike the countless times in the past where I have just reassured her, cuddled her, sent her back to bed, this time around, while I still did all these things, I also took a minute to ask her what she felt Jesus said to her when she was afraid. And to my absolute delight she responded that Jesus wanted her to know that He had not given her a Spirit of fear- and when i asked her what that meant,  she replied that it meant that she had the power from Jesus to fall asleep and not be afraid! I was amazed at how quickly this turned our night around, and how she hasn’t woken up since with a nightmare!

Recently, we have been going through a lot as a family; my daughter’s teacher spoke to us a couple of weeks ago and mentioned that our daughter was struggling to focus in school and that she was having to constantly remind her that she needed to listen. When I heard this, my spirit was grieved and I wanted to say so many things to the teacher but felt so much like God was asking me to continue giving Him this concern and to teach my daughter some powerful words from God. I felt in the moments that followed, God teaching me that only He had the final authority on what is spoken over my daughter and to come to Him, who knows her beginning from the end. So as much as I wanted to,  instead of confronting the teacher, we chose to pray and this Friday, her teacher practically run out of the room to greet my husband with great news that our daughter was excelling so much that she’d written an award winning essay!

I feel that what has happened is as a direct result of prayer and practising speaking the Word of God over us and waiting to experience its power. One of the best outcomes throughout this was that God turned the teacher’s heart towards our daughter. No amount of discussing could have done that. And so from that first day, we have memorised a verse each week that directly applies to our situation as a family and particularly to our children. Tonight as we changed over the verses, as we do each Sunday now, I felt God instruct me to teach her that He has a plan for her life. And so we came up with another (very badly performed) rap and learned about the plans He has over us.

And I guess this has been the most surprising part through this new journey- I prepared to teach my children some powerful memory verses about being able to do anything through Christ or having no fear or knowing that God loved them so much that He chose to send His son for them- what I did not prepare for was for God to teach me so much through this time with my children. As I reminded them what His word says about their circumstances, He reminded me in turn how He is the Father that speaks over me, too; how he is the one who reminds us who we are in Him, what His plans are for us. He is the Father who even comes to teach me how to be a parent when I find myself lacking, lagging behind or just really tired. He reminded me how there is literally no circumstances of mine that he isn’t interested in and that he cannot speak into. Including issues with my child’s teacher.

Our daughter has had the best week in school. We have asked each day and got nothing but glowing reports. She has had a smile on her face on her way in and on her way out. And today at church, she stood with me and danced as we worshipped. I feel that He has settled her fears and in the process he has also settled mine. I often talk about how much I love to boast about my weaknesses. I know it’s probably not the best foot to always lead with- when we talk about our struggles as mums as friends or as wives…but I find God so close the most when I look at how weak I am. Because often times I find Him right there, next to me, lifting me up, speaking over me, teaching and instructing me. I fall right into His plan and His purpose and His future for me. And I rest right in His peace when I realised that He is enough and where feet may fail fear surrounds me, I find him calling me out upon the waters.

week 1:
 Philippians 4:13
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Week 2:
2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Week 3:
Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Week 4:
John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Week 5:
Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Sweet and Sour

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My granddad used to sing a popular hymn all the time when I was growing up; a wonderful old song by Johnson Otman Jr, written in 1897. It goes a little like this:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]

To this date, it is one of the most prominent memories of him and whenever I think about him, I always see him in my mind’s eye, singing that song. It is a really strange thing to remember- especially as my granddad was not known for being particularly cheerful. Today as I was reflecting on my year I realised the scales had tipped a lot in the wrong favour. At first glance, it is easy to think that this year has been very bad for us. Over the last few months, in the cloud of awful events, it has taken everything in me not to tar this year with that very same brush as though the whole thing was simply spoilt by a few terrible and unfortunate turn of events.

But tonight, while I wrote about a particularly painful chapter on my journey in the search for home, I wanted to tip the scales in the right favour again. This year has been wonderful. 5 years ago, I joined with my beautiful Spiritual mum to begin praying for my husband’s career. This June, my husband landed the job of his dreams on a journey to the career that lights his heart with excitement. A promise fulfilled. In March, God connected me with a wonderful group of people that freed me to dream and think and be, while all the while financially supporting me to pursue my goals. In April this year, my feet touched the soil of Africa for the first time in over 15 years. In August, we received a financial gift that meant that we could buy ourselves a beautiful new car. As I type this, my wonderful daughter has recently learnt the power of Spiritual Warfare and had to date memorised 6 Key verses that help her when she is feeling weak. My most favourite one so far is hearing her recite 2 Timothy 1:7 to herself whenever she wakes up from a nightmare.

And that is NOT even half of what the Lord has done.  While I don’t know what always made my granddad sing this song particularly, I now know that it must have been from a place of knowing how powerful praise is in helping us defeat the pain of what surrounds. One thing is for sure, the more granddad thanked God for his blessings, the more blessings he got. So I am thankful for him and for subconsciously teaching me one of life’s greatest lessons.

Tonight I realise anew how blessed I am. And I don’t want to let a moment pass by before I thank my Father in heaven for looking out for me, day in and day out.

And this is especially true when things are sweet and when things are sour. I have a lot that I could be upset about. But tonight, I chose the power of praise. Because as my friend Becky Aladiran so beautifully sings in one of my favourite songs, ‘My praise is a weapon’. And I choose to raise it up.

Psalm 34:1-8

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

Lest we forget.

I’m walking now.  Quite well actually.  In fact,  today I went out in public without crutches. A moment witnessed, by beautiful friends who have helped us so much over this season that we’ve been going through. There were obviously a lot of excited squeals (mostly from me) as I showed off one more great thing that the Lord has done.  As we parted ways the smile on my face,  my husband said, was the widest he’s seen it for a while.  Mostly because actually,  I couldn’t have planned it better. If there were two people I would have liked to see my first outing without crutches, it was those two.  But I was also smiling for a different reason. The awesomeness of God.  How big He is.  His word, defying medical reports that said it’ll take 3-6 months (at least) to heal.  Three months! ! That was two weeks ago.  I have so many reasons for my wide smile. And part of the reason why I’m writing about it now,  I guess is because I never want to forget the magnitude of this miracle.  I never want to go back to normal and lose sight of how incredibly mighty God’s hand has been in all of this.  Most people we know have witnessed our journey and thankfully they have been part of the story that God is writing on our hearts.  So i guess I’m writing this down too, so they won’t forget either.  I guess so that together we can remember and remind others of the God of miracles who we met this summer together.  Who can do exceedingly abundantly above that which we can ask or imagine.  (Ephesians 3:20-21) . And I hope we can remind others together of THAT God,  when they question or maybe even lose their way.  And even remind each other when we lose our way. May we always, through this, help each other to find our way back to THAT God.  Who holds us in His hand from birth to end.  Who knows all about us and cares enough to meet us where we are.  Who hurts with us and whose heart responds to ours in love. Great love.  Enough to die.  Who feeds the hungry,  clothes the naked,  rescues the lost.  The God of kindness,  of love,  peace and justice. I guess before walking becomes so natural to me, I wanted to capture this feeling right now in this moment of the magnitude of our great BIG God.  Lest I forget.

You are sacred. You are treasured. You are His.

My heart is full to bursting with so many things that I could blog and probably will blog about soon. But for tonight, I feel an urge again to write but about a very specific song that is healing me. And hopefully to share it with someone else who may be in a similar place as me on the slow path to recovery.
May you know what I feel tonight. You are beautiful. You are treasured. You are His.

For those who may not already know, 6 weeks ago we ( my husband, my 5 year old daughter and my one year old son)  were involved an awful car crash that thankfully did not claim our lives but left us with significant injuries that have taken some time to heal.
I am grateful each day that I wake up and see their faces, all the more conscious of what could have happened that didn’t that night. I will never lose sight of this. We are blessed.
There is no doubt that we are forever changed as a family. The days that followed our car crash were very bittersweet. I remember my sister in law specifically questioning why it had to happen in the first place and why God didn’t simply stop it. I completely shared her sentiments at times and lay awake for many nights asking God why. And then there are the many that have asked me THAT question. You know the one…

“What do you think God is going to bring out of all of this?”

And the truth is, both the whys and the whats I have wrestled with. And I have no doubt that God WILL use this. He always does. He’s good like that. (Genesis 50:20)

When we first had the accident the shock of it temporarily stopped me from being able to see what I needed. It felt like this dark cloud had come over me and blocked my ability to do anything. Fear came, too, and wrapped himself over me like an ugly cloth. I was just stuck in this space that I can only describe as the in between; between reason and doubt. Moments of clarity and overwhelming sadness. Between fighting and tiredness. Making decisions and indecisiveness.
And then angels came. Sometimes in the form of real flesh and blood beings. One by one they came. Bearing the faces of friends and family. Taking away the burden. One by one.
Some came and held me as I cried. Some laughed with me and helped me to temporarily forget. Some cooked, cleaned or took the kids on adventurous trips. Oh, the trips! Some simply came and sat. Some in cars outside our house and others sat on our beat-up sofas or my hospital room. And listened. And prayed.
Angels. Wearing the faces of our family and friends.
In the middle of all of this I truly saw the face of God. I don’t think I have ever personally known love like this. And I began to feel like I wasn’t worth it. Why were all of these angels assigned to me? What is so special about me? About us? We’re not famous. We don’t really know that many people…what was God trying to show us through all of this? What did he require of us? And honestly it seemed the more I doubted the more people heaped on more love. In the form of generosity and finances love came. In the many meals cooked or personally delivered. In the hugs, texts, smiles and words of encouragement. Love just kept on pouring. And it is, even now, still pouring.
So I kept on feeling unworthy. I just felt like it was way too much. We really really didn’t deserve all this. ALL this.
And then I remembered a song a friend once played for me. And it helped me to realise that this thing that has happened, it hurt my Father God. You see he’s hurt when we are. He never intends bad for us. He’s our Father. He loves us. Does that mean that bad things won’t happen to us because we are His children? Absolutely not! Just think (if you’re a parent) about your own children. If not remember your own childhood. Children get hurt sometimes. That doesn’t mean that (good) parents want their children to get hurt. I hurt so much when my babies are in pain, wherever their pain is coming from. And my first instinct is always to try and ease their pain somehow and to show them how much I love them in their pain.
So in this same way I feel like God is doing the same for us. To simply tell us that we are loved. Responding to our pain with his love. And while there are many good things that have come from and WILL come from this, for now I just feel that the only thing God wants me to know is His overwhelming love for me. For my husband. For my beautiful children. And that yes, we are worth all of this. No matter how insignificant we feel.
So whatever you’re going through, however awful it is, know this: your father in heaven, whether you had a good example of fatherhood or not, is a good guy. He doesn’t want you to hurt. He wants you to know that he feels your pain and he wants to respond in love; because, actually, you are treasured. You are sacred. You are His.
And you are more than what is hurting you tonight. You’re beautiful.

Waiting…

I was meant to be somewhere tonight. but lately it seems as though my plans don’t always go according to..well..the plan. Unfortunately, tonight was one of those nights where the plan failed a bit and I ended up not managing to make it to said event. But when I got home and charged my phone, a ping from it revealed a lovely message from a lovely friend simply saying ‘waiting’. And as I read it, I felt overwhelmed by the feeling of love that flowed from that message. that my friend would wait for me, without so much as an idea as to when I’d turn up or why I was running late. It wasn’t a message asking why or when; it was a message to free me, to allow me to feel that my presence was missed and worth waiting for. It was a message of love. And in that I saw the living image of God, of a friend who waits for us; even when we are feeling fed up by the circumstances in and around our lives. The ones that happen just before we are due to meet with him, making it so hard for us to be on time; or show up at all.
I see a God who cares if we’re not there, because actually He knows your name; and he DOES care about you. Your not being there? He feels the loss. There is an empty chair waiting next to God. and so he waits. others come too, they find their way to God too. and they, too, learn that you are on your way so they wait for you, too. Not to hurry you or anything but because they, too, feel the same as He does. so they wait, together. For you. So, unaware, you go about your business, thinking and feeling like no one really sees or notices whether you are here on not. unaware that not far away from here there are those who are waiting for you. You matter enough. So they wait. Do you know that the God in heaven, most powerful creator of the Universe, nott only knows your name, but waits, day, after day, to have a chat with you? To have a meal with you; to have you know Him- because He knows YOU. And he longs to be kind to you and shower his compassion on you.

Isaiah 30:18
“The LORD is waiting to be kind to you. He rises to have compassion on you”.