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.

 

Loving (and hurting ) Deeply

I’ve been quietly working on a blog post in my head. Grabbing little thoughts and inspirations from here and from there. I don’t know if anyone can relate, but you see the thing is, I feel things very deeply. Part of this is because I’m a woman. (And any blokes reading this immediately go duh). Part of this is just how I’m wired, my personality and God-given gifts.

I was going to write a blog post asking for help for how to diminish this ‘feeling deeply’ part of my life.

I was going to grab your ideas on how to work on turning my feelings off, of growing thicker skin and of not minding it so much when friendships aren’t reciprocated or when people don’t follow through on promises or when something hard and bad happens to my husband or children.

But you know the more I started to gather my thoughts and try to put into words my helplessness and frustrations at myself…….the more I felt that gentle tugging of the Holy Spirit.

Be still.

Know who you are is who you are for a reason.

It is ok to feel and to feel deeply.

I think it comes down to something as simple as this……how deep is the Father’s love for us…..how vast beyond all measure indeed……there is no limit to God’s love – we are promised this in the His word……as much as that love is so deep – what can I give, but to give all of myself?

How can I love my friends, and my family, if I’m not loving with all of myself.

And the deeper the love, the more fulfilling the relationship. The more honest. The more relate-able we are. The more help we can be to each other.

So really, the question that I really have, is not on how NOT to love deeply, but on how to handle the hurt that comes with it. Hand in hand – loving people deeply brings such amazing rewards; deep and meaningful friendships, cherished moments, shared joy, but there is also sadness and heartache that comes with loving people as we’re simply human at the end of the day.

And so far I’ve come up with – We can use hurt to build up barriers to prevent us from reaching out, or we can use hurt to propel us forward. To learn from. To change future behaviours/ reactions. Both actions are hard. Both actions are done intentionally…not just as a side effect. Both reactions are things I have knowingly and willingly done. And not just in the past – but recently. My husband and I have some people in our life who aren’t the best with communication. A lot of the time we have to repeat information, sometimes that information is misconstrued, oftentimes that communication is one-sided – us making the effort, time and time again. So what have we done as a result of our hurt and frustration? We’ve chosen to stop making an effort ourselves. This has then become a no-win situation. We’ve built up the barriers to prevent us from reaching out.

But what I’ve realized from this reaction is that no-one wins……no-one benefits and no-one learns anything. We certainly don’t, because we’re the ones holding on to the ‘big ball of ugly’, and other party in this scenario is clueless as to our hurt and our frustrations. So nothing changes.

I am rather slow on it……I take my time to learn these things you know….but I now know that hurt does nothing as long as it remains hurt. As long as those feelings of powerlessness and frustration remain – the hurts wins – division wins – and the enemy wins. Because he doesn’t want us to be united. He doesn’t want us working together. He doesn’t want joined forces, abounding in love….because that’s the very thing that is going to change the world. That’s the thing that makes me as a Christian, stand out from another who is not.

So I’m learning that what needs to happen is we need to change the hurt into something else: a chance to re-evaluate ourselves, a chance to learn from an experience, a chance to do better next time, a chance to see the good in all.

The hurt can’t win. The hurt can’t take over our hearts.

I do believe that we were made to love deeply. We are loved deeply. Hurt comes hand in hand with loving people – but the rewards of loving people far outweighs the damage this hurt can do – I’m learning that we just need to be intentional with how we react to this hurt….

fionapic

Five Minute Friday: Red

Five Minute Friday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5 mins of writing on a set topic.

I’ve decided that if I ever wanted to do more writing….and to really get serious about it then I need to be able to just write. Simply write. So I’m going to join some friends linking up at Lisa-Jo’s blog and we shall see what fun ensues…..

So here goes….

START.

RED.

Where to start?  What to start writing about?  Red. Red.  Red.

Red red wine.  There’s a song about that.

But no.

Tangent.

I was thinking on the red thing and flicking from open tab to open tab on my netbook…..and bam.  There in my facebok feed was a link to an article about a 19 week old baby who was born, survived a few minutes and then passed.  This tiny, red, human being, held in someone’s hands ever so carefully.  Perfectly formed, but too tiny to survive.

I can’t bring myself to the read the whole article.  I can see the first paragraph and the photo.  The red baby.  Someone’s hopes for the future, wrapped up in a precious bundle.  Someone’s heart, crushed by what was not to be.

Do you know what a miscarriage that happens after 12 weeks is called?  A spontaneous abortion.  I learnt that the hard way.   Those words, they sting.  They go down deep, into a deep dark well of hurt.

But the more I live this life and the more I grow as a Mother and a Wife, with me grows my love for my family, I realize how great is God’s love for us.  So much greater than my meager offerings.

His love is higher than the heavens.  Deeper than the oceans.

Who can pour life and healing balm into a deep well of hurt?  Only God.

What can refresh and renew dreams, and take the place of dreams no longer able to be fulfilled?  Only the hope we have in Him.

It isn’t possible for us to have all the answers, we’ll never ever know why some babies are taken too soon, but we can rest in the peace that as we grieve, the Lord grieves with us.

STOP.

 

 

On the cusp…..

This is to you, dear lady who is standing on the precipice of a new direction in your life.

This is to you, dear man, who struggles under the weight of responsibility and concern for your family, yet you know, that you know, that you know, that you are being called into something new.  Something different.

This is for the couple that are just feeling more and more unsettled with your status quo.  Your life is ticking along just fine now, things are good, things are great, but there’s just something inside of you that hopes you’re not settling for less. Something inside of you wishes to expose your kids to a new dependence on God, a new level of trust having to be established.

You’re not alone with your fears, misgivings, second-guessing and concerns.

But this is what I know, without a doubt, as sure as night follows day, as sure as a baby poops as you’re about to walk out the door, as sure as a seven year old’s eyes leak as he’s learning the discipline of graciously loosing…….WHEN you step out in faith, WHEN you follow God’s leading, WHEN you choose to obey what has been asked of you, He will be faithful.

So very faithful.

One of the beauties of this world is we’re all called to different things. As a body of Christ we all have different ministries to serve in, different capacities to fill. What God has called my family and I to, will look completely different to you and your family has been called to.  There is no ‘better’, there is definitely different.  There is no ‘holier’ or ‘more worthy’, obedience is obedience.  Serving is serving.

At the moment we are starting to pack up our lives here in Southern Oregon, and we’re researching and planning for a move to fulfill our new calling (in Australia of all places! You can read about that here) So, while your family may not be called to move geographically, or you may not be looking at fulltime Christian ministry, what you are being called to is of equal importance in the Kingdom.

And if you’re peeing your pants at the thought of something new, if you’re feeling that sense of doom over details that are way out of your control…..please know…..God has this.

God holds you in the palm of his hand.

His will is perfect.

Sheer and utter dependence on God is a scary thing, but a blessed thing.  That walking step by step in His will…..that’s the kinda walking that brings miracle answers.  That’s the kinda walking that shows God as the hero – because of ONLY God.

How do I know this?  Because of God’s track record in my life.  Because it is in the stretch and in the pull, where I think I’ve lost it all, where I think this time I’ve really done it, really gone crazy, really lost the plot….His track record shows the Lord provides.  The Lord opens doors.  The Lord makes crooked paths straight.

As a parent and as a trained teacher, one of the biggest concerns I have for my children is for their schooling.  We were hugely blessed with a great experience of school here, and with moving that has been a concern of mine – where to put my boys in school, with not knowing the system, not knowing the options and not knowing areas etc.

A very legitimate concern in the natural.

But you know what?  We *think* we have a school sorted. An amazing school at that. I did some internet research, chatted to a very wise and godly friend who was familiar with this one particular school that stood out from the others immediately, made some inquiries and we prayed and left it in God’s hands.  And now…..because God has made a way, where there seemed to be no way….as long as this particular school accepts the boys we have been blessed to be able to make it so this will work for our family.  Now we may never be able to save for a deposit for a house (ha!) – but that is not our concern at the moment – this big deal for me of where to place our kids in school – after a big move and after leaving all they have known for the last four and a half years – is in the process of being sorted for us.

God is most certainly in the details.

If it weren’t for looking back at all God has done in our lives – all he has provided – all those details we’ve seen his hand at work in – it would be easy to say no to our next God adventure.  it would be more appealing to go back to where we’ve come from.  Back to familiarity and all the comforts that brings.  Back to what we know and to where we’re known.  But God.  But God’s track record shows He loves us and cares for us – for our every need and then some.  God’s track record shows I fret and I worry and I falter every step of the way – but He doesn’t.  He is patient and kind, his love is everlasting.

It doesn’t matter what the crowd thinks of what you’re called to do.  it doesn’t matter if your heart skips beats and you can’t sleep and you mutter grumpy words to yourself…..it doesn’t matter….because in and through our weaknesses, He is made strong.

What is God asking of you right now?

Live in the stretch my friends.  Allow opportunities for your kids to see you thanking God for his provision.  Step out into his glorious unknown – step from the cusp – into the scary.  He’s there.  It is not unknown to Him.

 

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: In Between

Five Minute Friday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5 mins of writing on a set topic.

I’ve decided that if I ever wanted to do more writing….and to really get serious about it then I need to be able to just write. Simply write. So I’m going to join some friends linking up at Lisa-Jo’s blog and we shall see what fun ensues…..

So here goes….

START –

In Between.

If there ever was a family that could portray the situation of being ‘in between’ that would my family. Right here. Right now.

Our run at our local state school has finished.
My commitment to a ministry to teenage girls has ended.
My responsibilities with the Mom’s group I’ve been a part of have been passed over.
I’m no longer on the nursery roster at church.

The things I do, the things that are part of the root structure of settling here that I’ve created……are falling off my calendar….and the days left here, in this little corner of Southern Oregon now number less than ninety.

My family and I are in between.

Piece by piece getting rid of furniture, appliances, toys and ‘schtuff’.

We know what we’re leaving. But not what we’re going to.

In between.

As hard as the uncertainty can be, as much as the unknowns can frustrate, what makes the ‘in between’ bearable is the knowledge that God is there. God is here.

In the stretch, in the learning and in the listening, while waiting for the next door to open, God is here.

While our ‘in betweens’ may seem hard and long, we have great hope in that God has no ‘in betweens’. He is present, always. In charge, always. Constant, always.

Jehovah Shammah – the Lord is There

El Olam – The Everlasting God

Not waiting for the next best thing – He is the best thing. Always.

STOP.
hallway

Rosa – The KitchenAid Stand Mixer

This is about a ‘thing’, but it is about more than the ‘thing’.

I do realize it is not normal behaviour to name a kitchen appliance. Not normal at all. But here’s the scoop – I welcomed a brand new KitchenAid mixer into my family last night. And her name is Rosa.

For the last four and a bit years I’ve had my eye out for a stand mixer. You see I do a lot of baking and once we moved to America I realized the huge difference in price in mixers here….just under a thousand dollars in NZ dollars for the very same thing that I got last night. More than three times the amount it costs here in America.

So for the last four years I’ve been entering every competition I could see on blogs to try to win one. For a while there I would tweet sometimes daily to @KitchenAidUSA, sometimes weekly. Just crazy little comments along the lines of ‘I still have a KitchenAid mixer sized hole in my heart’. I would have friends send me links to competitions. I would write silly facebook statuses along the lines of ‘KitchenAid mixer – the perfect Father’s Day present’. But there was no way I could ever justify buying one for myself.

I was a little over the top I know. But it was fun.

Last night I was invited up to a friend’s house under the guise of ‘cleaning’ in preparation for a new baby’s imminent arrival. Yeah well that house didn’t need no cleaning. Already spotless. Instead the kitchen was full of a bunch of amazing friends who had gathered for a bit of a ‘do’ and to present me with my very own ‘Rosa’ – a shiny red mixer.

Amazing.

Now while I will love using this appliance and will use it all the time – like ALL the time – at the end of the day the mixer is just a ‘thing’ I know…and the meaning behind receiving this gift is more than just being gifted a very handy appliance – that I may or may not have harped on about for over four years….

For me, Rosa will sit on my kitchen counter for years to come and serve as a reminder of just how faithful our Lord is.

Moving to America has been tough. Settling here has not been all smooth sailing.

But we’ve persisted. And God has blessed us tremendously. God has been so very faithful. Every step of the way. In the good times and the bad times. He has been our strength.

Three years ago I never dreamed that people would gather in a beautiful home, one summer’s night, to bless me with a gift – a gift that I can use to serve others. To bless others.

Two years ago I never dreamed that would happen.

But in the midst of just getting on with life, and reaching out and initiating and just being real and raw and learning to not hide who I am……..relationship has happened. Lifelong friendships now exist. ‘Community’ has happened.

Not because of me. Because I say stupid things and I have fierce and strong opinions, and I second guess myself all the time, but IN SPITE of me – God has been so very faithful.

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” Matthew 19: 29

Those words in Matthew, they are a very special promise.  To be perfectly honest with you, it isn’t the funnest thing in the world to yard sale a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff you actually use and are gonna have to replace once you move countries again.  It isn’t the funnest thing in the world to realize one day you have plenty of friends with kids your baby’s age, but hey, that tween, that tween of yours is seriously lacking in the friendship department and you failed miserably in that area.  It isn’t the funnest thing in the world to say goodbye to family and friends – and to miss special events, for years on end.

BUT God.

But God is faithful.  He does promise that if and when we give up ‘things’ and proximity of relationships for His name’s sake, for ministry purposes, then we will receive many things in return.  According to His purpose.

Whatever God is asking of you – be assured, He does provide all we need – as well as things we don’t actually need.  Like a mixer.  If you are being called to do something for His sake – he will not abandon you.  His will = His bill.

The very fact that I’ll be sad to leave friends behind when we leave in three months time is a very good thing – again it shows the Lord’s faithfulness.  If I left and I wasn’t going to miss anyone – then that would have been a terrible shame.

And for me, right now I can see the Lord’s goodness – represented by a shiny red mixer.  Others may see a powerful kitchen appliance that will churn out whipped cream in a flash and make the best pavlovas, but not me.  I see it as a symbol of God’s goodness.  That He cares about the details of my life.  He wants to bless us – abundantly.  And friendships matter.  They really do matter.

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Five Minute Friday: Imagine

Five Minute Friday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5 mins of writing on a set topic.

I’ve decided that if I ever wanted to do more writing….and to really get serious about it then I need to be able to just write. Simply write. So I’m going to join some friends linking up at Lisa-Jo’s blog and we shall see what fun ensues…..

So here goes….

START –

Imagine.

My sixth form Latin teacher was one of my absolute favourites.  She had an unfortunate name for a teacher; Mrs Waddell, but thankfully she was too slight a frame to actually waddle.

Mrs Waddell was very high up in management and discipline in the school.  Everyone knew her.  Everyone knew what behaviours she expected.  Everyone knew she was firm but fair.  The best kind of disciplinarian there is.

But in sixth form Latin, Mrs Waddell shed a little of her harsh exterior. Nobody takes sixth form Latin if they don’t want to. The students of sixth form Latin were there purely for the love of the language.  And so…Mrs Waddell would joke with us, and dream with us.

And as we journeyed along the Appian Way and got to know characters such as Cornelia and Sextus, Mrs Waddell would tell us ‘When you see the Colosseum’, ‘when you travel to the ruins of Pompeii’…..

There were no ‘ifs’.  No ‘maybes’.

There was no hesitation in Mrs Waddell’s mind that all nineteen of us, spotty cheeked, hormonally charged seventeen year olds would one day be successes, and would one day travel the world. Would one day use our education to the max.  That our Latin would come alive.

Mrs Waddell knew what it is to imagine.  To meditati.

She looked at what could be.

Instead of what was before her.

And we were given a gift – to believe in ourselves.  To live a life beyond ourselves.  To imagine.

STOP.

colloseum

Pedestals and Stepladders

One of the hats that I wear is the ‘co-ordinator for the childcare for the Mom’s group’ that I go to.  It has been an interesting role.  One I felt called to, but not one I’ll be sad to pass on.  In fact we have our last meeting for this school year this coming week and then that’s it for me….I’ve printed out all the checklists and need to know stuff for whoever takes over this role…and I’ve already handed it over.  Can you hear the angels singing?

Anyway, as always finding volunteers is never an easy thing and for about a month I knew I was a helper short for our last meeting.  So I did some advertising on my church facebook pages and held my breath, and waited.

No nibbles. No nibbles for three weeks until I got a message from the senior pastor’s wife saying she would love to do it.

Seriously?  I love that lady.  My initial thought was ‘No way, I can’t let her loose with the two and three year olds’…..that’s the class where altercations sometimes happen.  That’s the class with squabbles.  Stolen toys.  Noses out of joint.  And poopy diapers.

Seriously? Out of all the people that had seen my cry for help, this lady was the only one moved to step out and do something to help?  This lady who already does so much for the running of the church.  Whose phone rings at all times of the day and night with people needing her.  The demands of community.  The demands of position. The constant giving of herself.

Seriously?  Then I thought to myself, silly me, this lady is in control of her time and knows her boundaries.  Don’t put her on a pedestal Fiona.  She is leading by example.  Serving out of a love for her church, and a love for those children.

Maybe we all need to take people off these pedestals a bit more.

The pedestals that we create for them.

Maybe we need to lower our expectations of people and not try to size up their boxes for them.

Leaders.  Ministers.  Pastors.  Elders.  Yes they hold positions of authority.  But first and foremost they are people.  People who love the Lord.  People who love you and me.

Let’s give them honour and respect, let’s encourage and support them, but let’s partner with these people, instead of putting them on a pedestal.  Let’s not place undue expectations on them.

I’m swapping out the pedestals in my life, with stepladders.  Yes I will honour those who are in authority over myself, but I’m right there, holding onto their stepladder, making sure it is steady, doing all I can to make their job easier. To be a support in whatever capacity they need.  Wouldn’t it be neat to be a generation of stepladder holders?  Instead of pedestal makers?

I do hope though, that my own little two year is a cherub on Thursday at Mom’s group…….we shall see…..;-)

stepladder

Five Minute Friday: Comfort

Five Minute Friday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5 mins of writing on a set topic.

I’ve decided that if I ever wanted to do more writing….and to really get serious about it then I need to be able to just write. Simply write. So I’m going to join some friends linking up at Lisa-Jo’s blog and we shall see what fun ensues…..

So here goes….

START –

Comfort.

It comes on a frosty winter’s morning, with fluffy socked feet snuggled under my soft, brown blanket.

It comes with that first sip of the day of strong, freshly ground coffee, the scent permeating throughout the house…. it stealthily creeps up the stairs, a very welcome intruder.

It comes with another hand in your hand.  The joining of souls, the linking of limbs with hearts united.

Comfort can come in so many ways.  In many varieties of forms. Sometimes it is a tangible thing that brings comfort, and other times…..not so much.

A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray.’ – Proverbs 25: 11

The comfort that an encouraging word brings, lasts.  The comfort that a loving word brings the ability to endure.  The comfort that a word from God brings with it much courage, boldness and fearlessness.

Let’s use our words to comfort.  Let’s use God’s words to inspire, to change lives, to point the way

STOP.

applesofgold

 

This gift we have

Yesterday I was thinking some deep and meaningful thoughts along the lines of self-confidence and outward awareness.  I posted on facebook:

I really admire people who remain outward focused and concerned about others, while keeping their own self-confidence healthy. Too often it is a case of having either, or.

And it is true.  I do admire those people in my life who have a healthy self-esteem yet still have concern and time for others.  But, in all honesty, there aren’t many of those people around.

Do you ever find yourself in the situation where you easily find words to encourage someone but then it becomes an expected behaviour from you, and you feel like you transition from encouraging friend to number one fan club?  I guess this happens where there in no reciprocity in the friendship – no two way encouragement.

Unfortunately I see all too often people who appear to have lots of self-confidence, a very positive self-esteem and their worlds are mainly concerned about themselves – their trials and victories, their lives.  But notice I said people who appear, appear to have it all together on the outside.  

The truth is we all could do with more encouragement.

The truth is we all need each other.

If you’ve spent any time at all on my blog you’ll know that this is my thing.  My heartache.  The thing I will harp on and on ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

We need each other.  We need community.

We have this gift at our disposal.  Each and every one of us.  Not matter how confident and secure in ourselves we are, or appear to be.  We need to give this gift and we need to receive this gift.

We all have the gift of caring.  Of taking an extra two seconds to ask someone about themselves.  Of taking the spotlight off of ourselves and onto another person.

We don’t need fan clubs.

We need people around us who care.  Who love.  Who stand by us.  Who are present.  We need to be those people to others.

Even if those others don’t reciprocate.  Love anyway.

Even if those others have quite well established fan clubs.  Give of yourself anyway.

The gift is inside of us, just waiting to be delivered.

Why, why, why is this so important?  Why, why, why am I convinced that we need to do this more and more?  Why won’t I shut up about it?

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:35

There has to be something in us that appeals to others.  There has to be something in us that makes us different to scores of other friends.  That something and someone is the Lord.  By loving others – the spotlight is shone quite brightly on Him.

And that’s what it is all about:

Caring about others, because He cares for us.  Showing others we care through word and deed, because He cares for us.

Giving others this gift we have – this gift of caring – because when we start to use this gift, it never runs out.  It’s like a never-ending fountain of goodness and flows on and on.  A well that never dries up.

This gift we have.

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