When you’re at a Zero.

Our car, ‘Frankie’ (doesn’t everyone name their car?) is facing a bit of an identity crisis at the moment.  She’s lashing out with some erratic behaviour.  Today her back window wiper started going very randomly.  It would wipe and wipe and then stop.  And then start-up again and continue, until I pushed the button that is supposed to make it start, to stop it.  Something weird going on with the electrics no doubt.  Where’s McGyver when you need him?

Along with the crazy window wiping, there’s another indicator playing up.  The fuel gauge is showing we have zero gas and the ‘need to fill up’ light is on and the DTE (drive til empty) screen thingy shows up as zero as well.

Now ever since I started driving I have had this crazy fear of running out of petrol/ gas.  I can’t explain it – but the thought just petrifies me.  To be driving along, and all of a sudden to stop.  Just not be able to go any further.  And knowing my luck it would be on a busy road, with car full of boys one, two and three.  Not my idea of fun.

So to have the fuel gauge playing tricks on me…..not cool.

This time around though, I know I’m ok. I know my husband filled up the car yesterday. I know the gauge was at full first thing this morning.  I saw the gauge at full and I saw the receipt from the gas station. I know I didn’t leave a big puddle of gas anywhere earlier today.  I know that even though the signs say that poor ‘Frankie’ is empty….I know she’s not.

This got me thinking about the times in our lives when we feel truly empty.  We feel like we’ve run out of steam.  We’ve had our boat load of physical illness, financial strain, people issues, future worries and past concerns.  We are spent.  We feel like we could sleep for a week.  We feel like we have nothing to offer people.  We’re done.  We’re past it.  We are running on empty.

But here’s the thing……even when our gauge is indicating empty, empty, empty…….we’re not.  We have the Holy Spirit, our helper, with us.  Always.  Even when people let us down, and they will.  We have the promise of hope, always.  How we FEEL doesn’t change a thing about how HE feels about us, and what HE  is able to accomplish in and through us.  God IS our ever-present helper.

‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ – Isaiah 41:10
‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ – John 14:27
‘I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me.’ – Psalm 120:1
  All the signs around us may indicate that we are running on empty, and we may feel like that, but we’re never ever empty.  Just like I can’t trust ‘Frankie’s’ fuel gauge at the moment, neither can I rely on my feelings, and thoughts.  Our God is greater, Our God is stronger.
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A valuable lesson

Thick, white bread with a consistency like cotton wool was a once a week treat. Chocolate cake was about a twice a year treat.  I played outside where streams of raw sewage would flow, and diaper-less children would squat any which way.  Corners were places for beggars – hands stretched out, eyes downcast.  My first movie was not ‘Cinderella’ or ‘Sleeping Beauty’ but ‘Chariots of Fire’.  Brown paper wrapped parcels would arrive with much fanfare, after having travelled across many seas.  The contents of them was not candy and treats, chocolate or clothes, no…those parcels contained vitamins and medicines.  I hand-washed clothes for play, without realizing it was the only option we had, and when I checked my bed for snakes at nighttime, it wasn’t part of a game.

Fast forward 26 years.  I still remember the sights, the smells and the sounds of living in such a different culture.  I don’t begrudge my time in that place at all – in fact I’m the only one in my family who has been back to visit.  I love that I know how blessed we are, in every way, in the first world culture we live in.  Sometimes I catch myself rolling my eyes at the first world problems that surround ourselves here.  Sometimes it makes me giggle.  Sometimes it makes me groan.  And sometimes I feel like shaking people and sending them on the first plane out of here……to smellier, dirtier, hungrier nations.

All this to say I have the benefit of experience.  I can compare and know, really know, how very blessed we are.  So I should know better….

The other day I was driving home from somewhere.  And God spoke to me.  God speaks to me most in the shower and in the car.  On all accounts I should be a very clean but very distracted driver.  I was coming home from being in a very gorgeous home and I allowed that thought of ‘I really loved that home and its beautiful decor, I wonder if I will ever have anything like that’ to linger just a bit too long.  You know what I’m talking about.  That thought just didn’t pop into my head and pop out…but it attached itself.  UNTIL, a few minutes later (while I was still driving) God gently spoke these words to me….’You’ll never know what they sacrificed to get their house and belongings’.  GAH!!!  Talk about a slap in the face.  Thanks God – its true – you never know what people sacrifice in their personal/ private/ spiritual lives.

Anyway – I thought that was that for that thought.  I thought it had been dealt with.  Not so.  The next day I was doing a quick clean of the house and noticing ALL the stuff everywhere that shouldn’t have been everywhere and the fact that the sofa had been drawn on again etc.  And I found myself saying the words aloud ‘We don’t deserve nice things, even if we had them, we would just ruin them’.  And as soon as those words were out of my mouth, I wanted to take them back.  I didn’t mean them.  I know what I value the most in life – and things certainly aren’t them.  I believe we should all hold ‘things’ very lightly in our hands and if someone needs something we have – then the best way to show God’s love is to give give give.  Not keep keep keep.  This is what I believe.  Then why the ugly words and ugly thoughts?

All because I had allowed that thought (of envy – let’s call it what it is) to take up residence – even if it was just for that short amount of time.

I was so upset at myself for thinking and saying those things…that once again while in a car….God spoke again to me on this subject…..’Don’t waste precious time on things’.  And he reminded me of how brief our time on this earth can be.

I can look back at Facebook account and already I have had five Facebook friends pass away.  All due to different circumstances, but five people, all of them younger than 30, in fact all of them younger than twenty five.  Life can be short.

I have no idea how much time on this earth I have.  But I no longer want to even entertain thoughts for mere minutes on the subject matter of stuff.  Stuff stuff stuff.  Sy Roger tweeted this thought yesterday – ‘Why waste time envying my neighbor’s ‘greener grass’: God wont give it to me. Better that I appreciate & cultivate my own patch of potential’.

Cultivate my own potential.  Yep.  That’s what it is about my friends.  Appreciate your most valuable assets – your family and friends and giftings God has given you, and then cultivating them.  Reaching up and out.

Dear Mother Friends of Mine…..

This week the interwebby welcomed and loved a certain blog post about what children really want. We applauded and shared the good news, the news that what our children really need is US. Their Mothers. This post was well written and thoroughly embraced by the Mom bloggers community. When I just checked it had been ‘liked’ 289,000 times and tweeted 6989 times.

I love the fact that this blog post is reminding us about the basics, ‘Can we remind each other that it is our uniqueness and love that our children long for? It is our voices. Our smiles. Our jiggly tummies. Of course we want to learn, improve, exercise, cook better, make our homes lovelier, and provide beautiful experiences for our children, but at the end of the day, our children don’t want a discouraged, stressed-out mom who is wishing she were someone else’.

Amen and amen.  In this day and age when we are trying to be all things to all men (and women), and technology is constantly bombarding us with more ways to be ‘more’,  it is nice to actually have someone write from the heart and say WHOA.  That’s not what Motherhood is about. And weren’t we just crying out to be told that?  Otherwise why was the post embraced so warmly?  We needed to be told that.

But, dear Mother Friend of Mine, I’d like to take this one step further.  Without placing another demand on your life, because this is indeed a freeing thing, I’d like to suggest that as well as keeping a right perspective about your importance to your family as that popular post encouraged, I would love to see more Mother Friends of mine living their lives in a reciprocal manner.

Mother Friends being real Mother Friends.  Helping each other along the way.  Supporting each other along the way.  Praying for each other along the way.  Speaking out verbal encouragement to each other along the way.  Sharing practical help to each other along the way.

Dear Mother Friends of mine, I see your discouragement when sickness comes, when children challenge boundaries, when worries come your way.  When trying to deal with the pressures you put on yourself and receive from others. I see the downcast eyes, the tears close by, the frown tugging at your face.  I hear the frustrations in your voice, the scratch at your throat as you hold in your emotions.  The inability to look outside of your world, because your inner world is taking up all of your effort and strength.

But friends, dearest Mother Friends of mine.  If you only knew what joy there was to be found by being sincerely and genuinely interested in others.  By lifting your eyes away from your own issues, and onto others’ delights and challenges, then…..you would find true freedom and sisterhood.

Dear Mother Friends of Mine I promise that if you show yourself to be a real friend, you will receive true friendship in return.  And that is a gift to be cherished.

Dear Mother Friends of mine, lift your head – out of your nest of diapers, games, toys and routines, turn to Him who will guide you and refresh you, and then turn to those walking the journey with you.  Mothering is so much better with sisters around you.

Dear Mother friend of mine, life was never meant to be a solo act.  Rise and smile.  Hearts lifted, together.

Developing hinds’ feet

Hot on the heels of my last two posts about how to deal with curveballs when they come your way and keeping your relationship with God fresh, here is some insight from a dear friend Sheri who has dealt just recently with the big C.  (Words in italics are Sheri’s own words).

The big C = cancer.  Yick.  Scary.  Nasty.  Painful. Grueling. Stealer of time, energy and people.

However, our God is greater, our God is stronger, God is higher than any other – that is what Sheri can still sing with all her heart and mind and soul, even after enduring two surgeries, a staph infection, chemotherapy, radiation, and now is still taking a special pill a day.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud 

   and there are no grapes on the vines, 
though the olive crop fails 
   and the fields produce no food, 
though there are no sheep in the pen 
   and no cattle in the stalls, 
18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, 
   I will be joyful in God my Savior.

 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength; 
   he makes my feet like the hinds’ feet, 
   he enables me to tread on the heights.

– Habakkuk 3: 17- 19

 I’ve been reading a bit of Joyce (Meyer) lately, she’s really quite choice.  Joyce says ‘that the way we develop hind’s feet (a hind is an animal that can climb mountains swiftly) is “to walk not to stand still in terror”, to walk and make spiritual progress upon the high places of trouble, suffering or responsibility’. Which is what needs to happen, when curveballs come our way.

It seems to me that often we don’t realize how strong we really are until we have to be strong.  We don’t know how tight we have to cling onto God’s promises, until they are the only things left to cling onto.  When all around us seems uncertain.

 When I was waiting for the biopsy results, an acquaintance was expressing her fear on my behalf and I could honestly tell her that it didn’t change anything. Whether it was benign or malignant, treatable or not, live or die – my future is the same. I am a child of the most high King.

I love that Sheri said this.  Nothing can change that.  Whatever situations we’re in – we’re His and we have that blessed assurance.

God has been so close. So incredibly close. Scripture says count it all joy, so we don’t get to decide what we count as joy.

Ugh…..we don’t get to decide what we count as joy…..me….I’d rather not even have to learn how to count major sickness and illness as joy…..but, as Sheri says…we just don’t get to choose.

And the support system He placed around me. I can never express enough how clearly I saw Jesus in the people around me.

This makes my heart sing – that Sheri does have good support around her, but my heart bleeds for people who don’t have a good support system around them….community is just sooo sooo important.

One day, early on, before chemo and you couldn’t tell that I was a cancer patient. I was in my surgeon’s office- he does all surgeries so again no reason to assume I am a cancer patient. And this lady, in her 30-40s looks at me and said, cancer is a slow way to die. And for a half a second I felt fear, and then the voice of God whispered “it’s not about you”. And I prayed with her. Her name is Sara, she has a seven year old.

During radiation, I met two sisters I would guess in their 70’s. They live together in a manufactured home in Phoenix. Joyce has lung cancer, and Gaylene drives her to her treatments. We sent them cookies – they both have sweet tooths! We invited them to Easter. When Rick is recovered we are taking them to dinner.

Isn’t this just God?  In the midst of her own pain, issues, uncertainties and treatments and all the trauma that they place on the body and mind, Sheri’s heart was turned towards others and their issues and their scenarios.  Why?  Because that’s how God works – when a heart is already in love with Him and when we have peace and know He is for us and not against us, then our eyes and ears are tuned into others needs and hurts, no matter what we are going through.  And along the journey…….we are developing hind’s feet.

Everywhere we look, we see God’s fingerprints. I have heard people say cancer is a gift. I have heard people say cancer is a curse. To me it is neither, it is a disease. And I have a Healer.

Many thanks to Sheri for sharing part of her journey with me.  xx

Fresh Up

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you’  James 4: 8

 

  I finished my post yesterday by saying that when we live in a fresh relationship with God, He changes us….if we allow Him to.  This was the second topic I approached my group of ‘wise women’ for advice on…..how can we keep our relationship with God fresh?  This is an important thing…..to do intentionally…..life gets busy…..we take things for granted……interruptions come our way…..

So…….here are some pointers from women who have been there, and done it, and are still learning…..

*  Ask God to remind you daily that this earth is not your home.  Ask for an eternal perspective, so that things of this earth come into true perspective.

*  Prepare your heart, before you open your bible – try to just be still and open yourself to God, or bible study can just be another to check off your ‘things’ list.  

*  Keep in contact with godly people.  Listen to their stories.  Observe how they live.  Ask God to help you see them as He does.  

*  Get outside and go for a walk.  It’s possible to see God at work everywhere outside, no matter what the weather is.  It reminds us of His majesty, power, beauty and incredible creativity.  A change of scenery can often change perspective from worries and questions to wonder and worship.  

*  Pray before and after reading His word – asking how this can be APPLIED and LIVED through your life.

*  For some, teaching others can keep your relationship with God fresh.  It means you have to dig deeper into God and deeper into His word.  Applying your mind to understanding brings newness.

*  Learn to sit and be still….especially hard for the ‘Marthas’ among us, but necessary for times of calming down and listening to the Lord.  

*  For some people, a new and challenging focused Bible Study helps to bring a freshness.  Especially when done with others – there’s that accountability there, and a new dependence on God’s closeness that comes.  

*  Music – have a song in your heart, and in your head….

*  Keep your relationship with God a priority.  Just like with your significant other.  

*  Keep ‘encouragement’ starters handy – books, statements, quotes, verses that really speak into your life.  

*  Try a bible study looking at the names of God.

*  Have friends that you can be accountable to – encourage each other with Godly talk, before you talk about ‘other’ concerns.  

*  Attend seminars/ retreats where you can feed your soul without outside hindrances.  

 

You know we’re fortunate enough to live in countries where we have fresh drinking water available on tap.  That water goes through quite a process, before it reaches our water glasses in our homes. There is a dedicated, intentional process that happens to it, to ensure quality of product.  I see our relationship with God as being the same – we have the Holy Spirit available to us, always, we have Christ right beside us, all the time, but to help maintain our closeness with Him, it helps to stay fresh.  To refuse to become stagnant. The process has to happen in us first. We’re the ones who choose to move closer or further away from Him.  He is always there.  

 

‘What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we have in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? To know God. What is the best thing in life? To know God. What in humans gives God most pleasure? Knowledge of himself.‘ – J Packer 

 

For when you are stuck in your story…….

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My loving kindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Says the LORD who has compassion on you.
– Isaiah 54:10

Life is beautiful. Life is amazing. Life is a wonderful roller coaster ride…of ups, and……of downs. Life can hurt. Life can be messy.

The mountains in our lives can be shaken. And sometimes we can get stuck in our story. Sometimes we dwell on these curveballs that come our way…..and we dwell too long.

We all know people who cannot hold a conversation without referencing to their ‘whammy’ event in their life. We’ve all read blogs that keep mentioning ‘this’ one issue time and time again…..

While some events in life do change us forever and we have no choice about that, how we react to these events is up to us.

For this topic I approached a group of amazing ‘wise women’, asking them to share their advice, speaking from their own lives. Sharing what they have learnt from the curveballs that have come their way. What a privilege to be able to share this with you today…..

How to deal with the curveballs of life.  How to not get stuck in your story –

*  Ask God to give you an eternal perspective.

*  Know God and His character – look at God’s promises.  His plans are amazing and good.  Period.

*  ‘Adjust…….you just learn to adjust’ – Mrs A.

*  Get yourself some input.  Input Christ based information daily – music, reading, podcasts.  This helps bring much needed perspective.  Look for the lesson in your journey.

*  Give yourself grace for the journey.  Give yourself some ‘down’ time.

‘God so often reminds me of the layers and layers of grace He wraps me in, so that I can continue to stand: from that I have learned to mentally take a deep breath, focus on a larger picture and apply some grace to my heart’ – Mrs Q.

* With curveballs that involve tricky people situations – ask God to help you see them through His eyes.  Allow His grace to flow from you to them, to love them and bless them and even want to pray for them.

*  ‘Remember we are pilgrims.  As we embrace and yield to God’s plans for us – even when they are uncomfortable and hard, He gives us the strength and grace we need’ – Mrs D

*  Curveballs and major crises have to be dealt with on our knees.

*  Every verse that can be memorized, quoted, written and taped on mirrors WORKS!  Surround yourself with His promises.

*  Understand that others will ask you about your particular situation.  They ask because they care.  The choice to dwell longer than is necessary on your ‘issue’ is yours – you can give them an honest answer and then move the conversation on…..

*  Humour.  You have to have a sense of humour and not take yourself too seriously. ‘A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken’ Proverbs 15:13

*  When trouble strikes often one’s first instinct is to act like a turtle. To withdraw from life, and especially from others when in fact we need good friends around us the most.  Keep your girlfriends around you, treasure the accountability that comes with having  kindred spirits around you.

*  Expect God to provide you with opportunities to minister to others, once you have come out the other side of your ‘adventure’ – this is to show God’s healing power and restoration truly at work in your life

‘Whatever God saved you from, He’ll turn you around and make you a minister to someone going through the same’  – Mr A.

And finally…….when you live in a relationship with God that is fresh, that you strive to keep from becoming stagnant, then HE changes us, if we allow him to.  So it just isn’t possible to stay stuck in our story.  We are moved on…….so my next blog post will be looking at PRACTICAL ways in which we can keep our relationship with the Lord FRESH.

Can I just say…..

…..I am soooo excited.  I am working on my next two posts and they really excite me.  Not because of anything I am writing, not because of my words……oh noooooo.  I have approached a group of ‘wise women’, women all in their fifties and sixties who have a strong walk with the Lord.  I’ve asked them a couple of questions that have been on my mind lately…and they have been ever so graciously replying…..

And what I am receiving for answers to my questions are nuggets.  Nuggets of wisdom.  Nuggets of gold – formed by the fire of ‘life’, formed by pure and raw experience…..

Practical ‘stuff’.

And eeeekkkkk it blesses my heart and changes me.

Should be ready my Tuesday night…..

In the meantime I’m listening to the new Passion 2012 album ‘White Flag’.  It is sooooo goood.

One my favs….