Spring’s Wonders

The temperatures in our neck of the woods are slowly, ever so slowly, creeping up, and the blossoms are popping forth their flowers.  Pink, and white, all over the valley.  Beautiful, just beautiful.

On the way to my husband’s workplace I happened upon this beauty today.

It is a bit hard to see in this photo – but this is one tree.  Not two.  And for the first time that I’ve ever noticed before, it is pink and white blossom together.  In one tree.

Now I’m sure the gardeners among you could tell me how this came about, but to me, the first thing I thought of when I saw it was ‘abide’.

This is the perfect visual image of abiding in God…..one in the other….

Abiding in God =

understandings are in Him

souls are in Him

confidence is in Him

asylum is in Him

Abiding.  The pink and white blossom together – engrafted.

The Lord and I.  Resting in Him.  His word engrafted in me.

‘If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.’ – John 15:7

BAM! New words in my bible….

Don’t you love it when God just miraculously adds words to the bible?  Well it feels like that huh?  What is really happening is you are reading, really reading a passage with new eyes, or a new and different understanding, or it could be as simple as reading a different translation to your normal one.

Anyway – bam!  I read something this morning and for the very first time I understand it better – and it is AMAZING – it could revolutionize your life.  It really could.

  ‘For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power’  – Philippians 4: 13

That is it.  BAM!  And here are the new key words for me……..everything God asks me to……..

For years and years I’ve just thought the verse went ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’  Which is great – it is an amazing statement, and wonderful words.  BUT this translation with its mentioning of ……everything God asks me to……defines it so much better. I’d love to read what the original Greek says.

For all the tasks that God asks us to do – all the missions in life he has for us, and only us – HE WILL give us the strength and power.  This verse clarifies things.  So often we think of things that we should and could be doing and they may be all good and worthy things……but at the end of the day….are they what God wishes us to do?  For it is under the umbrella of doing everything that God asks us to do, that there is Christ’s strength and power.  This verse also highlights the fact that God is so very personable, wanting to speak to each of us, with distinct callings for each of us.

This verse also means that where and when God calls us, he enables us.  He gives us all the tools to complete the task that we need.

What a promise to cherish and what a good kick up the backside to encourage us to seek His will for all things.

As for me and my house…..

……..we don’t have accent colours.

…….we don’t have matching furniture.

……..we don’t have seasonal decorations.

We do however have a whole lotta love and fun.

You know just when I’m beginning to feel at ease with living here and feeling like we’ve found our litle niche, something pops up and goes WHAM in our faces. Sometimes it is a flat out cultural difference between life here in the US and life in NZ. Sometimes it is a parenting choice we have to make that sets us apart from other families – because how we choose to do things may be slightly different to others. Often it is the two combined – parenting in a different culture – that makes us go whoa! What to do? What to do?

But we know what to do for the most part, because we know what we want for our family. We know what ‘As for me and my house’ looks like for us. And if we don’t already know – we’re learning as we go.

Now – before I get into the guts of this post I feel it is really really important to hear my heart. Really, please hear my heart. With the examples I am sharing I am not saying our way is the only way. I am not saying we are perfect and our decisions are always right. I am using a church situation as an example but I am NOT criticizing the church. I am merely using it as an example of how we navigate our way through these situations, when they don’t line up with what we would choose to do. What I am saying quite loud and clear is – you need to know what you want for your family, and make choices accordingly. Be intentional. Even if you’re the only freaks who think the way you do. At least we can be the foreign freaks for now.

Have you ever done those tests/ exams where you flip out a piece of paper at the back of the booklet and it has your a,b,c,d choices in boxes and as you read through the paper you shade in your choice of box? Then, to mark/ grade the paper, all the examiner has to do is place the clear sheet with the correct boxes shaded in on top of the student’s answer sheet and they can clearly and quickly see which answers are correct. The correct answers line up with the answer sheet and are covered over – the wrong answers stand out.

I want my life to be covered. I want the choices we make for our family to be easy – they either line up with the answer sheet we have chosen for ourselves, or they don’t.

Easter is coming up and with it comes the choices and decisions of how do we present the real gospel message of Easter to our children? One of our churches is hosting an egg hunt on the Saturday of Easter and we are making the choice to not go. It doesn’t line up with our answer boxes. In New Zealand Good Friday is a holiday. There is no school for anyone and the shops are required to be closed all day Good Friday and all of Easter Sunday. Church services are held on Good Friday. It is easier to re-inforce what it all about. Easter eggs can be part of the whole commercialism of the season – or they can be about the resurrection. It depends on how you present them to your kids. We have chosen to not give our kids eggs until Easter Sunday. It is what we grew up with, what we have done in the past and what we will do in the future. Easter Saturday is for mourning. For hoping. For remembering ALL that Christ has done for us. Easter Saturday is winter. It had to happen for Easter Sunday to happen. The rose bush has to be pruned for new growth and fruitfulness to happen. The leaves have to fall for new buds to be able to grow.

The ice-cream man with his cheery jingles does not visit the apartment blocks behind us in the wintertime. No. Ice-cream treats are for summertime. Easter eggs are for Easter Sunday. For reinforcing the message of incredible love. For being a complementary symbol of what we as Christians can rejoice in – the tomb was empty – there was and is new life for Jesus and for us. A hollow chocolate Easter egg is not what Easter is all about – no – but it can be a symbol to be used to celebrate all that Easter is. Legalistic idea of mine? You may well think so – but I do know that in this world there are enough distractions to lead any family away from remembering Christ. If there are ways out there that make it easier to show Christ as the hero of the story, to put the spotlight on him, then I choose that. Especially when Good Friday is just another working day for people here.

Cultural difference – yes. Big time. Parenting difference – yes. Does it mean I am a better parent? No. It just means that this is one thing we have thought about and decided does not align with our answer boxes.

The other whammo situation we’ve had this week has meant we went from ‘The best parents in the world, to the Worst’, in a period of about fifteen minutes, easy.

Our oldest earned the ‘right’ to go on a special trip with some fellow members of a club. It would have been a fun overnighter trip – but involves two full days of travelling and a lot of money for one kid, for one reward. The answer for us was easy. He is not going. Even if we had budgeted for the trip, even if we felt it wouldn’t be too tiring for him, even if he has gone on overnighters before (which he hasn’t), the answer would still be no. We just don’t spend that kinda money on one child. He is not ‘entitled’ to it and never shall be. We do things as a family. We spend money on family trips. There will come a day when he has to do things by himself – when interests and school events may well require him to have his own adventures and that is fine – we’ll be ready for that when that time comes as a teenager. For now, we will cherish family time as much as we can and we choose NOT to spend ludicrous amounts of money that we don’t have, simply as a reward for doing something he enjoyed anyway.

Mean parents? For about an hour last night he thought so. But you know what? He’s woken up this morning and has not mentioned a word about it. Instead he has started researching what he knows will be our next family vacation, made even more special because a set of Grandparents are flying in to see us.

Cultural difference? Yes I think so. I know more families within my circle of friends here that will spend more money on their kids because it is expected of them. Even people on very limited incomes. Peer pressure at its worst. I do think American culture is more extravagant than what I know. Just telling it like I see it. It is hard to have a different mindset where we don’t buy little Johnny such and such even if we had the money. Parenting difference? Yes. It makes us the ones that stand out as being ‘different’. I don’t think the parents that are letting their kids go on this trip are wrong, no, not at all. Their kids will have a wonderful time and make great memories. For now, I’m selfish enough for want my child’s memories to be ones where his brothers are beside him and his parents are there – cheering him on, being his biggest fans.

It is all about that answer sheet. What lines up with your choices and decisions with how you choose to live your life. Not about being right or wrong – but about knowing when situations come up, how does this look for my family? What will my decision be, based on what we believe and how we approach life?

As for me and my house……

Let’s get physical, physical!

Now that you all have that song in your head, along with Olivia Newton-John sporting some kinda lycra fluorescent outfit picture in your head…..actually I want to write about getting practical today.  But I don’t know of any songs about that.  Tricked ya!

So let’s get practical for a moment.  Practical.  My Mom’s group had a wonderful speaker last week.  She shared about her childhood and early adulthood.  She overcame some amazing circumstances and is now a pretty inspirational lady. She is a mother to 8, married to a great guy, homeschooling, hospitality queen etc etc.  Amazing.  I could have listened to her stories for hours because I really respect her – she is doing an amazing job and her heart is so in the right place – she’s a vessel for the Lord.  Humble but intentional in all she does.

I do wish that she could have shared for longer…..what I really longed to hear about was how she got from point A in her life – dealing with ‘stuff’, to point B – being a mature woman of God.  We’ll just have to have her back to Mom’s group another time….

As she spoke to the group I could kinda feel some angst in the room…..the whole ‘you’re getting your kids to memorize huge chunks of scripture while I just want to pee alone’ kinda angst.

SO.  Let’s get practical.  I’m on this journey too – the journey of dealing with all the demands that a young family places on you, along with a limited budget and all of the demands that places on you, but, I have this desire like so many of you do too, to BECOME that Superwoman of God.  So here are some things I am learning along the way….some I learnt the hard way…others by the grace of God I have gotten right….

1.  Getting your people in the right order.

God first.  Husband next.  Children next and then……ministry/ friends and extended family.  I see people around whose lives revolve around their kids.  They make amazing Moms in the process but what happens when the kiddos leave home?  And what happens when the kids all of a sudden realize they are not the centre of the universe when they end up in a group setting? I’ve found that the times I am most patient, most loving and kind towards my children and husband are the times when I have given God first place in my thoughts and actions. Everything just gels so much better.

2.  Quiet time/ bible reading time/ devotional time.

Just do it.  In whatever way works for you, at whatever time works for you.  And you’ll find it becomes addictive and you realize your days change and you can handle the interrupted shower and the spilt cereal so much better.  Don’t be legalistic about it, don’t place pressure on yourself about to do it for certain amounts of time…..we’re all busy – but we all have the same hours in a day given to us. Just do it.

3.  Talk to God throughout your day.

To be honest my days do not usually start with saying ‘good morning Lord, how are you going to use me today?’.  Nope.  Usually my first thought is something along the lines of ‘Lordy it can’t be morning yet’…..but if I can get my thoughts on God and chat to God by the time I’m in the shower, then great!  I don’t think I ever understood the concept of praying continually throughout the day until my oldest boy began school.  All of sudden he was not under my watch – I had to learn to let go of him in a new and scary way and my prayer life took on new heights.

4.  Input.  Need more input.

Just because your hands may be engaged in a household task like school lunch making or my favourite – ironing (yes that was sarcasm), it doesn’t mean your mind and soul and ears can’t be engaged at the same time.  Come on people – if you’re reading this you are most probably a woman and that is what us women do best – we multi-task.  And we multi-task well.  So find some great podcasts or online Christian programmes that you can watch on demand – or live.  Get some input!  There are loads of churches that put their messages on itunes for free.

5.  Include your kids in your ‘ministry’ things as naturally as possible.  

However big or small you think your ‘thing’ is.  The fact that your world is bigger than just those around you, the fact that you are doing ‘Jesus with skin on’ stuff speaks mightily to those kids.  Actions speak louder than words.  You can create your own teachable moments.  It may be as simple as bringing your kid’s teacher a hot coffee on a cold, cold day, or bringing your child with you as you deliver a meal to someone.  BUT don’t let this edge out spending time on what is important to your kid.  Today I had to fulfill a promise of playing soccer (in between snow showers) with my middle child and I have to tell you I was grumpy about it.  Grumpy. GRUMPY. My attitude was not what it should have been.  But thankfully I have tomorrow to get that attitude adjusted, and hopefully no snow showers tomorrow.  You see if I was too busy doing stuff for others, but not stuff for my own family – then what is that teaching them?

6.  Get yourself a mentor. 

I can only write about this now because I have finally sorted this out in my own life in the last couple of weeks.  I am soooo thrilled to have an older woman say YES to me.  She is there for me for those moments when I need to dissolve, when I need a shoulder and advice.  When I need a woman’s perspective.  And she is sooooo kind and loving – but not gushy, perfect I think for me as I’m not a gushy person. I’ve known for so long that it is so important to have this in my life, but I haven’t made it happen, until now.  Here is a fantastic blog post about mentoring.  Read it and then do it.  I haven’t dissolved on my mentor yet…….but there will come a day when I will….but she will be ready for my tears and snot I’m sure.

7.  Practice, practice, practice

Practice listening to God.  Practice hearing him, really hearing him.  You will get things wrong – but if you and I don’t try and keep trying, then for the times when we really hear a message that needs to be told to someone, or if we hear an instruction that needs to be done to speak to someone, then we’ll miss out.  And others will miss out on seeing God’s mighty power.  Also practice in your head what you would say to others if you were given an opportunity.  You may well laugh at this – this is pretty up there as far as my dorkiness levels go – but I give myself pretend topics and I pretend to prepare messages to share as if I am speaking to a women’s group.  I ask the Lord ‘what would you have them know’…..dorky right?  But it gets my head in the right space of at least attempting something way out of my comfort zone and ultra relying on God.

8.  Be kind to yourself.  

I’m not going to become that Superwoman of God if I am a tired, sick mess.  And neither are you.  We need sleep and decent food – but I’m also all for a few treats too.  Moderation, my friend.  Peanut butter m&ms are my vice and that’s ok.  Oh and coffee.  We need bucket loads of coffee.  You and me.

But you know – and this is my last point – I talk about becoming THAT Superwoman of God.  The truth is – she doesn’t really exist.  We’re all on a journey.  We’re all at different stages of maturity – but we all need Him and we’re all needing to keep coming before God and as I said in my last post – emptying ourselves of ourselves and becoming more like Him.


Empty Vessels

If there was ever a prize for the person with the most diverse range of people that they followed on twitter I think I may be in the running for it.  Among the people I follow on twitter are a few celebrities, some pastors, a chef, some home executives, my hairdresser, and some registered dietitians to name just a few.  As long as the tweets I read are not full of self-promotion, I love twitter. I find it inspiring and encouraging.  More so than Facebook.

This week I read a tweet that has been quietly marinating deep within for a few days.

‘The oil ran out because the empty vessels ran out…fresh oil comes daily to the empty vessel’ – Mark Peterson  (Pastor at C3 Church, San Diego).

The more I think on this, the more I love it.  Love it.

It is referring to 2 Kings 4, in which Elisha the Prophet ordered the widow to collect empty vessels and he poured oil from the sole thing she had in her house – her single vessel of oil, into the empty vessels.  Therefore providing for her in a tangible and helpful way.  She was destitute, and had no way to help herself.  But God saw her need and through Elisha provided over and above.

The widow was obedient, she collected as many empty vessels as she could.  And they, in turn, were filled.  She must have felt like a bit of a twit.  Her neighbours must have thought she had lost her mind.  What could she do with empty vessels, when all she had was one single pot of oil?  But, as Spurgeon says, ‘Her faith, when exercised, was equal to the emergency’.

God takes care to deliver us in ways that exercise OUR faith.  We’ve never going to get results for the Kingdom if we’re not growing.  If we’re not trying new things – if our ‘tent pegs’ are not being enlarged.

What does that look like?  How can we make that happen?

To me – it is by starting off with being an empty vessel.  Less of my selfish desires and wants.  Emptying myself of the things I feel are important.  Surrendering myself.  Saying ‘Not my will, but yours Lord’.  By being ready to obey.  What does that mean?  You know that quiet calm voice in your head, that tells you to do something that you wouldn’t think of yourself….that is often the Lord.  Quietly, because He is a gentleman, directing your ways.

As long as there are still people unsaved – we need to be empty vessels.  Spurgeon says ‘Our own fullness shuts us out from receiving God’s fullness’.  I love that.  As long as I am concerned about my world and my life and my issues – my eyes are not on Him and on others around me.

Coming back to the widow and her oil – the vessels were not half-filled.  No, God’s not like that.  He’s not the God of half measures – in Him there is FULLNESS of joy.  In Him, my cup runs over.  We serve a mighty, mighty God.

Daily, repeatedly, I need to empty myself of me, so I can be filled, to the brim, with Him.

Going Fearless

In my last post I referred to the fact that I now have more people in my life to be my ‘iron’.  One of these amazing people is Lindsay, from The Fearless Experiment.  This is a new blog that Lindsay has started to show her journey and the journey of some others as they look at what holds them back from living a life of relentless faith….looking at being obedient to God in every area of their lives.

I’m with them.  I’m in.  I’m committed.  I am stepping out of the boat.

I do not want to look back at some years of my life and think I wasted them.  I missed opportunities.  I wasn’t all I could be.

There is soooo much more of God that I know I need in my life. SO much more I want to be used of Him.  And I know He will answer this cry of my heart.

For a few weeks I haven’t really known what more exactly I need in my journey.  What does being ‘fearless’ mean to me, in my walk?  What area of my life isn’t totally surrendered to God?  I mean if you ask me to sell up everything I own and pack my bags and move to a place I’ve never been to before, then I’m your girl.  If you want me to suffer from undiagnosed pain for years and years and not lose my Pollyanna disposition, then I’m your girl.  If you want me to deal with weird family situations and for my husband and I to be the peace-keepers then, cool, I can do that.  But what more do I need to be fully fearless?  How is this gonna look in my life? Not that I think I have it all together – I do not  – I am fully aware of many faults and many areas where I need more grace, more love and more of Him…But I just didn’t know what it meant for me to take this next step to be fearless.  In every area of my life.

And now I do.

For me – being fearless is to take every thought captive and to not dwell on the possibilities and probabilities, that are not part of God’s picture for my life.

Being fearless is to say ‘God has my future and all the details already aligned’.  And to mean it.  Not for those to be easy words to say and not believe, but to fully believe those words.

Being fearless is to look back at all the ways in which God has provided for us – financially, practically, emotionally and to know He will not let us down, no matter what the future holds.

Do you see that the future for me is an area I’ve been holding back on God with?  We know where we are until January 2014, and from then on, we don’t know what will happen job-wise, travel-wise……the thought of setting ourselves up in another country again and starting from scratch gives me heart palpitations from time to time.  I’m being honest.  The school I feel would be right for my kids back in NZ is a private school.  BUT – if it is part of God’s plan – He will provide.  And for me, right here, right now, I need to face the future fearlessly.

I need to face my present reality with being fearless too.  Being fearless in the now is to say ‘Speak to me Lord Jesus everyday, use me in new and incredible ways to keep on what I am doing but to be more effective’.  Love more people.  Encourage more people.  Spread joy into every avenue, into every corner of my life.  To not dwell on me, but to focus on others.

Sometimes we hold onto these fears because as crazy at it sounds, holding them is like holding a comfort blanket.  These fears keep us grounded and to be grounded is to know where we stand, to have things within our control.  But I don’t want to miss out on more.  On more peace and more comfort, that comes from the craziness of living a life totally surrendered to God, so I’m going fearless. I’m swapping my fears and my what ifs, for the kind of reassurance that can only come from the Lord.  That comes from truly believing that when God calls He enables.  For ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ – Philippians 4:13.

Want to get out of the boat with me?

A ramble, a rave, a relentlessness…..

I have myself an answer to my question from my previous post where I was asking how to get conversation turned from the mundane to the meaningful.  The answer is to simply surround myself with more like-minded people.  Not to ignore those friendships that don’t challenge me so much, as these are still important and needed, but to place an emphasis on the iron sharpening iron part of my life.

It is biblical.  It is good.  And now, finally, after nearly three years of being here I can say I now have people in my life that have the same desires as me, that wish to be relentless in their faith and aren’t afraid to talk about it.  And the not being afraid to talk about it is the difference.

A few weeks ago I posted on facebook I posted that ‘I got me some good iron’.  In my usual cryptic way I was announcing to my friends that knew my hunger in this area, that I am making progress.  I am not stuck in the same valley that I was.  Of course I then had to persuade my Mother that my iron levels are quite all right thank you very much.  Cryptic statuses are lost on so many people.

Everything I’ve been reading in my bible lately has been about loving people, and loving God and by loving God doing what he tells us to do.  And by showing we are loving and kind then we are showing the world that we are the children of God and others can get to know Him better.  The key words of LOVING and DOING and KINDNESS keep popping up.  Verbs.  Actions.  We have to do better at loving people.  We have to do more than just say we will pray for someone.  Don’t get me wrong I believe in the power of prayer with all my heart and I know prayer changes things.  But so does driving someone who needs to get somewhere.  So does cleaning someone’s house.  So does making a meal or baking for someone.  For the first time in our marriage of nearly 13 years I want us to have a second car.  I don’t want to be stuck at home when I could be out helping someone ~ doing SOMETHING for them.  As well as praying.

So often we read about social action things and think we can’t do anything to help.  That’s too big a problem for little old me to make a difference in.  But, in our little worlds, we can make a difference.  We can be the difference.  Crowds don’t change the world.  Disciples do.  Do~ers of the word.

I know I’m ranting.  I guess this is one of my greatest passions in life.  To not just talk about stuff ~ but to actually DO stuff.  And I know part of this passion comes from being the recipient of a lack of ‘doing’, from being the recipient of a lack of help and a lack of reaching out when that was all I really wanted and needed.  But if God can turn my hurts and grief over this around and show me how important it is to live out in day~to~day life…then that’s the miracle of it all.  That I haven’t shut down and inwardly been crushed.

Let us show our love by our actions.