You split the sea

I’m stuck, listening to this one song, ‘No Longer Slaves’ by Bethel Music.  I’ve been watching YouTube clips of this one song for over an hour.

Have you heard it? Does it make your own heart soar?

While I’ve been so fixated with it, I’ve been asking the Lord about what this song could mean to me, what specifically should I take from it….and I got this little ditty……

So often we, well ME, fret over what we have or haven’t done. We stress over our roles in life. Especially poignant for me as I try to find my fit in this new life I now have. I look at all the things I’m not doing and all the things I could be doing, and ask the Lord about little old this and little old that…..and in doing so I forget what He has already done.

He surrounds me with songs of deliverance from my enemies.

I’m no longer a slave to fear.

I am a child of God.

I was chosen from my Mother’s womb.

Love has called my name.

I’ve been born again, into my Heavenly Father’s family.

The sea in front of me, has already been split.

I can walk right through it.

My fears have been drowned in perfect love.

I have been rescued.

So much has already been done for us. So much has already been done. Achieved. Finished.  All these truths, all these promises we have in Him. We just need to walk in this knowledge and embrace who we are, because of what has already been done. I am a child of God. You are a child of God.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=f8TkUMJtK5k

Antidotes……

For the first time in a very long time I’ve now got time to think. Like, really think. Moving countries twice in 13 months definitely took its toll on me in a lot of ways, but one of them was it took away my space and ability to think and process these thoughts. So watch out world…….I’m spending a lot more time by myself these days and therefore…..all the words I have….they may just appear on here….

I’ve been thinking about ‘burn-out’ in terms of ministry burn out and what brings people to that point. I’m not even sure what the clinical or professional definition of burn out would be, other than the loss of motivation to carry on with whatever ministry obligations one is supposed to be carrying on with. I once heard someone give the statistic that youth pastors survive two years in the job before burning out. I don’t know a stat for overseas missionaries, but I would be interested to hear it. And then I’d love to know how that compares with missionaries who stay in their home culture but their main job/ source of income would be Christian ministry of some form. How quickly do they burn out and how can we avoid this? I’m sure the info is out there, I just need to track it down.

My husband and I are fortunate. We were overseas doing mission work for nearly six years, and now we’re back in our own culture, but the mission work continues. We’re fortunate though because we’ve avoided burning out. But if I were to sit down and ponder this really closely and honestly with you, I think we, well really I, came pretty close to it a number of times. I don’t think the desire to chuck it all in and run away from home is a very healthy mindset to have, and I’ve felt that way a few times. And recently too.

Any walk that is walked alone is harder than it needs to be.

I harp on and I harp on in this blog about the need for community and for people to have people. And I still believe that is so very true. And I wonder with all my might, in my very simplistic way of thinking and looking at the world, if the very antidoteC to burn out, is to have someone in your life asking you how you are on a regular basis. Someone other than your husband/ wife, that is making the effort to actually inquire about you. Not asking about your partner, your kids, your ministry, your extended family, but YOU. Making you a priority.

Why do I think this is so important? Because we feel things. You and I feel things. And we need to have these feelings either validated, or squashed beneath our feet. We need to know that what we feel actually matters, and that we’re not alone in these feelings. We need to have these feelings taken to the Lord, and to gain His wisdom and insight into our issues. And sometimes we can’t do this by ourselves. Sometimes we get stuck in the moment. Sometimes we get sick. Sometimes we’re so used to making sure that everyone around us is ok that we don’t focus on ourselves.

What I am talking about is more than having someone we’re accountable to. It’s about having someone who is actually invested in us. Who makes us a priority.

What if everyone in Christian ministry of some shape or form had someone in their lives who was interested in them as a person with feelings…then I wonder what would happen to burn out rates then?

Now you may be thinking that surely this is already happening in most missionaries lives? Surely the organisations are looking after their people. Well some are and do and do a fantastic job at this. And some missionaries/ ministry workers are very good at having this in place in their lives. But not all. Not everyone wants to talk about their feelings. And not everyone knows what happens when their feelings aren’t listened to. Until it is too late. They want to run away from everything they know and love.

Now maybe not everyone needs to talk about their feelings as much as maybe I would like to be able, and that’s ok, but i do think most if not all people need to be able to process things, and if having someone who is able to hear you out helps, then awesome.

So why am I bothering to open up about this here and talk about my own simple thoughts and findings on a matter…….because if you’re reading this you’re likely to be a fellow Christian. If you have someone in your life who is involved in Christian ministry, can I implore you, start simply asking them about them. Not their family, not their ministry, not their spouse, but them. You may be the only person to do so, you’d be surprised. And if you’re in some form of ministry and all of a sudden get asked to share your heart, embrace that. You’re not dumping on someone, someone is actively showing they care for you and about you. Embrace it.

We need each other. Always and in all ways.
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A note from the returned……

We’re ‘home’. Home in the sense that our accents are understood, I know which potatoes to buy that roast the best, and we’re now only a few hours away from the majority of our family.

Home.

Its kinda wonderful. Only it isn’t. I’ve got a headache that won’t go away, and feelings that need processing that I’ve been carrying around for the last year or so, and even though we’re home we still have to go through the newness that comes from being in a new area with new routines, schools and a church to find to make our own.

Instead of festering on some of these things that make my heart ache, I thought I’d try to put into words some of the things we’re going through and give some really practical pointers, so you can get a sense of what it is like for returned missionaries, or even just returned workers. So you can be there for others. And maybe help alleviate someone else’s headache.

Food. We all have to eat, right? And kids love their snacking, right? I mean it’s not just mine whose tummies are ruled by the clock. We flew into Auckland airport close to midnight and I knew our motel for the night was not near a supermarket so I stocked up on some breakfast foods from a kiosk at the airport. Probably the most expensive fruit salad I’ll ever buy. But I didn’t need to fret, because when we opened our room in the motel, there was a basket of goodies waiting for us. Biscuits, treat food, fruit and nuts. This kept us going for a few days and was an amazing help. Put together by my husband’s new boss, this gift basket meant a lot. If you’re looking to do something to help out a family who has just moved internationally, don’t underestimate the power of a chocolate bar.

It is extremely hard to cook out of a semi-stoked pantry, to make meals on the fly that are going to be healthy and yummy for a family with growing kids. It takes time and money, to build up your supply of spices, herbs, and baking basics. We’ve been in our new rental house now for nearly three weeks and I think my kitchen is close to ‘workable’, so you know what I would gift a family moving into my world from another country? A stash of spices. Yep. Silly as it sounds, that’s providing a need right there.  And another thing that was a stand out in my memory forever – the day our container of household goods arrived and was unpacked, our dinner was brought to us by a co-worker of my husbands. Amazing. And delicious. And it met a real need. The gift of a premade meal should never ever be underestimated in how powerful that is.

Friendships. They are a weird but glorious thing. I’m super conscious of trying to not step on people’s toes and trying to not be demanding of their time and energy, when I’m really not sure of where I fit into their lives here anymore. We’ve been out of this country for nearly six years now and things change. So all I can do is put it out there, that no my life is not busy, yes our days are wide open, and yes I’d love to see you whenever suits you. That means leaving the ball in other people’s courts  and so that does mean we’re having some long and lonely days. On the plus side it means lots of family togetherness time and by golly we were unpacked the day our container arrived, so a shipshape house we do have.  We were very fortunate to be invited to a get together a friend organised, with a few families who are already going to our new school. That means in a sea of new faces, there will be a couple of faces that can greet my boys by name when they start. And that means a huge amount to this mothers heart. So if you’re ever in the right time and space to do something similar, for a new family, can I encourage you to do the same? A simple gathering of three families, nothing fancy, but a chance to just hang.  And if you’re in the situation where you want to welcome a friend home, but your schedule and commitments, especially over holiday times just don’t allow, then do still text/ message/ call/ email. Unspoken words and unwritten words don’t convey any intentions.

This week my boys start their new school, and for the first time in over twelve years I am going to have time to myself as our littlest one started kindy last week. I’m vacillating between pure joy at having time to think and just be, yet petrified at the thought of having all this time to think. This blog may explode with newly processed thoughts, inspiration and shared experience. But I hope I still have eyes to see, eyes to see others who may be hurting like me, others who may be lonely, others who need to chat. Because, as always, life is better together..and as a newly returned….this is just as consequential as ever.

The gardener and his helper.

It is getting quite toasty in these parts, these days. We don’t have daylight savings here, so most people’s days begin rather early.  It isn’t uncommon to see people already working hard at their daily tasks, while it is still rather early…..partly to make the most of time before it gets too hot, and because they are most likely going to be awake and up anyway.

Last week I was on my way home from dropping my two oldest boys at school, and I was stopped at a red light at a major intersection.  Whilst stopped, I began watching two people in the gardens of a church I was outside of.  One of the men was getting on in years.  Wearing a broad-rimmed hat, with long, neatly pressed trousers and a short sleeved shirt, and working boots.  He looked familiar with his work, and careful and tidy.  Let’s call him Mr Neat.  Mr Neat was mowing the lawns.  Standing reasonably close to where Mr Neat was working, was another man.  The gentleman also looked like he was getting on in years, only he looked dishevelled.  He was wearing way too many layers for what the temperature called for, he looked like he could have had a nice wee appointment with a barber for both his head hair and his facial hair, and he looked like he rather enjoyed his food, and he just seemed like he was in need of some extra care.  Let’s call him Mr Scruffy.

Mr Neat was the one who was doing the bulk of the work.  Mr Scruffy was close to him, watching him with ease.  There seemed to be a familiarity between the two, but from my simple observations I didn’t get the feeling they were related.  I got the feeling that if the two men were related, Mr Neat would have been the type of person to make sure Mr Scruffy wasn’t overdressed.  He would have seen that Mr Scruffy had clean hair.  You know what I mean?

So anyway…..Mr Neat was doing the lawnmowing, then he finished up the patch he was working on, and as he was doing that, Mr Scruffy opened up a gate, and walked the lawnmower through to a another area, while Mr Neat followed behind him.  Mr Scruffy looked pleased as punch.  He was helping.  I couldn’t hear any dialogue between the two men, I couldn’t see them talking, but there just seemed to be this natural flow between the two, as Mr Neat stepped back and let Mr Scruffy do something that obviously made him very proud, but Mr Neat followed very closely.  Ready to correct, help or intervene if needed.

Then my light turned green and the flow of traffic surged forward so I had to leave my observations and carry on my merry way.

But for however long this little vignette took, I was captured by it.

And then I felt the Lord speak to my heart.

In the picture I had just witnessed, Mr Neat represented the Lord.  He’s in control, he’s got things sussed.  He is the master gardener.  He’s tidy and organized, but he has his sleeves rolled up and he’s ready to do business.  And I am the Mr Scruffy.  I’m messy and uncomfortable in myself – yet God has no trouble with me coming near to Him.  I’m overdressed and ill-prepared for come what may, but God doesn’t look twice at that.  I’m more than happy to be near the Lord and to sit and watch Him at work, and when I’m ready to take flight, when I’m ready to action upon what I’ve been asked to do, God’s right there, right behind me, ready to intervene if needed, but urging me on, like a proud Daddy watching his baby girl walk for the first time…And you know God really isn’t looking for talent and ability, or presence or a certain personality type – He’s just looking for obedience.  If Mr Neat was worried that Mr Scruffy didn’t have the goods to really help, he wouldn’t have let him take over controls of the lawnmower.  But he did.  He, quite simply believed in him, definitely when others wouldn’t.

What an amazing God we serve…..always at the ready….in charge but let’s us ‘help out’ when we feel we can or should….

And you know what happens when a master gardener is given permission and freedom to do what they do best?  When they have ample resources and man power to put into their project?  Beauty happens.  Significant change happens.  Something that was dead, and ugly and lifeless is made attractive and brings joy to many.  Imagine what would happen the more we work hand in hand with our Master Gardener……just imagine…..

What a touching scene I witnessed that day, at that red light.  I pray that God blesses that Mr Neat in real life, and may Mr Scruffy always find acceptance and love, on those church grounds.

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Bragging Rights

The good, the amazing, the bad and the ugly – I spew it all out here on this here blog.

I haven’t shied away from sharing some things that have been hard – things that come with being in Christian ministry and with moving internationally.  Things that just come along the journey of walking in obedience.  But in and through it all – I hope that you can see what we hold on to – the hope we have in Him.  The faithfulness of our Father God.  His provision.  His care.  His love.

I can’t paint a clear and accurate picture of life as we know it, without this highlighting of challenges and highlighting of great joy, because that’s the reality of walking hand in hand in God, and my prayer and goal for these posts is to encourage and to bless, most of all – because it’s in these hard times that God shines through, and it is in the good times, that God is glorified.  God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.

So – today I just have to shine a huge big spotlight on my God.  The hero of my story today is my one and only Saviour.  The bragging rights can only go to Him, and Him alone.

With our recent move to Australia one of the many things that concerned my Momma heart was to do with how my two oldest boys would cope academically, with settling into a completely different school curriculum.  Add into that equation that we felt God calling us to send them to a private school, where the academic expectations are somewhat higher than a state school.  Add into that equation the fact that both boys pretty much skipped a grade each, although the comparisons are hard to make as each of the curriculum and year intakes work are so different it is hard to compare. Add into that equation my boys are taking subjects they have had no exposure to before….you get the drift….this whole schooling business has been a big deal for me.  It would have been no surprise to have found gaps in their learning – even though they both are hard workers and have excellent attitudes towards study.  But God.

Our story is peppered with ‘BUT GOD’ moments….and this is just another to show His loving kindness.

But God.

We now have had school report cards for both boys – and quite simply – they are rocking school.  There are no gaps in their learning.

But God.

I would brag about my boys and how wonderful they are, and they are.  Quite wonderful.  But they are also works in progress, as are we all.

I had to learn to trust God and trust that these boys would be ok in this new school environment, that they would not be intimidated and overwhelmed.  And God came through.  And is coming through.  And this is the story of our lives.

Accepting the call.  Embracing the call.  Swallowing fear and pride and personal desires and disappointments and allowing God to do what He does best.  Come through.  For us.  Because He loves us.

We will overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony……I have no greater tool at my disposal of showing God’s greatness, than of bragging of what he has done in my life.  In the lives of my family.

My boys could be struggling so much – they could be grieving over what they have lost, they could be struggling with cultural changes and they could be troubled with feeling of inadequacy and low self-esteem if they were struggling academically at school.  But they are not.  Because.  God.  There are still challenges for them – speech and accent issues to name one – but God is still so very good.

Whatever God has called you and your family to – He will lead you through.  He will enable you.  He will protect you.  He will bless you in your obedience.  There will be road-bumps along the way, there are always road-bumps along the way – but that’s part and parcel of life and of our Christian journey.

There is so much to be gained in and through obedience.  God knows what our Mother hearts cry out for, God knows what keeps us awake and thinking of the worst case scenarios.  He knows and He moves.

My God’s a big God. Your God is a big God.  We serve a mighty God.

Branded.

Night falls early in these parts, so I imagine the deed was done early one evening.  The ‘deed’ being the scrawling of an ugly word with an even uglier meaning, onto the front of a car.  By scrawling I really mean scratching.  Leaving a permanent mark.

 

 I don’t know the victim of the ‘crime’ – the owner of the car at the time.  She obviously had upset someone.  Maybe a jealousy was playing out in a very real way.  Maybe it was a spiteful prank gone wrong.  I don’t know – but I do know this – she didn’t deserve to be branded in such a scarring way.

 

 We are now in possession of the aforementioned branded car.  A long time loan while its current owner is overseas.  I can’t help but notice the unpleasant word every time I get in or out of that car.  It looks very out-of-place the few times it has been parked at my boys’ school.  Their ‘private Christian College’ school.

 

 In the bible, in John 4, we read of a woman who was branded with the same word that appears on our car.  The Samaritan woman with a bit of ‘baggage’.  Jesus approached her at the well and asked her for some water.  Now this was not the common practice in that day at all – not common for a Jewish man to speak publicly to a woman, much less a Samaritan woman, and even less common to talk to a Samaritan woman with a past like hers.

 

 In his book ‘Powerful and free, confronting the glass ceiling for women in the church’, Danny Silk looks at this interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman and notes that ‘Not only does Jesus talk with her, but he also talks with her about theology – a topic expressly forbidden to discuss with women.  In one conversation, Jesus literally sliced through years of rabbinical law and cultural norms with the extreme love of God that sees the treasure in every human heart’.

 

 The people around the Samaritan woman would have had all manner of labels stuck on her.  All sorts of branding.  Yet Jesus was able to look into her eyes and see her simply as a child of God.  He saw in her purpose.  And hope. A future.

 

 He saw the treasure that is in every human heart.

 

 He looked past her past, and saw what she could be in her present.  And she did use that information he shared with her; the fact that he revealed his true identity as the Messiah for the first time, to her, she went back to her people and shared the good news with them.  She brought people to him.  There must have been some point in her thinking when she realized ‘if this man the Christ sees me, then I am worthy’, for her to have gone back to her people with enough confidence to share her story with them, to bring others to Him.  All it took was for her to see herself as the Lord saw her – worthy.  Daughter.  Beloved one.

 

 We all wear labels of some sort.  Some of these labels are positive, some are negative.  Some stop us from seeing ourselves as God sees us.  My husband and I have to look past the label on our car.  We know that this branding doesn’t affect how the car drives, its effectiveness in doing what it was designed to do.  We have to choose to not focus on the negative connotations of this label.  What if we all carried this on to every area of our lives?  To every dark and hidden corner of our hearts?  What if we all worked on trying to rip off every label that has been imposed upon us, by simply accepting the Father’s love for us.

 

 Jesus sees the treasure that is in every human heart.  We are his children.  What if we start walking in that?  What if we start living that out?  We are loved with an everlasting love.  We were created in His image.  I think it is time to start ripping those labels off – time to help your friends and relatives see themselves as God sees them.  Cherished.  Beloved.  Designed while we were in our Mother’s wombs for a purpose.

 

 I’m gonna start tearing off some self-imposed labels and others-imposed labels…..how about you? Are you in?

Hey, you!

….yeah, you!

Life’s pretty full on, isn’t it?

I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed and was struck by the thought that so many people I know are facing hard times at the moment.

Disappointments.  Sickness.  Health scares.  Family breakdowns.  Accidents. People letting people down. Financial issues.

There’s a whole heap of sadness just hovering over precious lives.

And if you’ve been a reader of this blog at all you’ll know that life’s been a little tough for me just lately.  I’m very real about the cost and the price that comes with following God, and choosing to serve and walk in obedience.

But along with the trials that I’ve been facing, and along with whatever you’re facing, there is no doubt in my heart and my mind and my soul, that God is so very faithful.

If you’re a Christian – your only chance is to hold into hope.  Cling to the promises we have in Him.

If you don’t know Jesus in a personal way, then ask Him to prove himself to you.  Put yourself in a place of openness, and just wait for the transformation. He’s real.  He’s kind.  And He’s there for each and every one of us.

Isaiah 41:10.  Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.

Whatever darkness you’re facing.  Whatever questions you have over your future and your beloved ones’.  Hold onto hope.  Hold onto those words we have from someone who loves us far more than we could ever imagine or dare to believe.

He is strengthening me.  He will strengthen you.

He is holding me with his righteous strong hand.  He will hold you.

Dear friend, hold onto hope.  Just cling to it.  Cling.