Sunday, 27 April 2014

Learning to Listen

I deserve a slap on the wrist really, I am quite shocked that the last time I posted something on here was back in November.  I have a million excuses, all of which stack up to one thing: I got busy and I let life get in the way, and that shouldn't have been the case.  Not at all.

So, anyway, back to the purpose of this post although I guess it all ties in really.  When we get busy in life, we don't take the time to stop and listen, and listening is what God has been challenging me on at the moment.

It started with some keys.  More precisely, the loss of my keys.  We had just moved into our new house and we only had one set of keys between us.  One for the front door and one for the back door.  One day, as I left to take Eli out to playgroup I considered putting the two individual keys onto my keyring which also contained the keys for my car (yes, that's a lot of keys!)  I was late, and I was rushing and in a moment of utter laziness, I didn't bother.

When we got home, I got out of the car and whilst rooting around in my handbag for the loose front door key, Eli ran away into next door's garden.  Given that their garden is incredibly well looked after, and we'd only been living next door to them for a week or two, I hissed at Eli to come back to me.  Engrossed in whatever game he was playing, he didn't listen to me.  I said it louder, and he still ignored me.  Harassed and feeling increasingly embarrassed in case next door happened to be looking out of their window, I went into next door's garden, hoisted him up and flung him through the front (now open, of course) door.  I'm not in the habit of throwing my children into hard plastic.  Although maybe if you'd asked me at the time...I was so mad.  I was so mad that even when my husband returned home a couple of hours later I was still going on about how mad I was that Eli hadn't listened to me.  'I called his name five or six times at least,' I ranted, 'and he paid no attention at all.'

The next morning, when I went to find my car keys to drive Meg to school, they were nowhere to be found.  It seemed that between the point I arrived home the previous day, and the next morning, my car keys had simply vanished.  I hunted everywhere.  I looked all over the house, emptying boxes, blaming the kids, asking them repeatedly where they had hidden Mummy's keys.  The mystery of the keys took over my whole concentration.  Where could a set of cars key with no less than three keyrings vanish to?

My keys were missing for days.  It was a nightmare.  We only had one, broken spare for the car, which only worked sporadically and after a lot of inner pleading.  One night, almost a week after the keys had vanished I was perusing over the mystery whilst relaxing in the bath.  I was actually contemplating what good fortune it had been that I had decided not to add the house keys as otherwise we would be facing a whole new kind of trouble.  I sent up a quick message of thanks to God that Holy Spirit had prompted me to not do it, and then I remembered reading one time about a guy who had lost his keys.  He had prayed, and God had shown him where the keys were.  I will admit that I was a bit dubious.  In my mind, God has more important things to do than worry about where every lost little thing is, right?

Wrong.  I sat, and I thanked God and I listened.  Then I climbed out of the bath, came downstairs, emptied out the changing bag and Hey Presto!  There were my keys.  Nestled into a side pocket where they had, presumably, fallen after I dropped them on my way into the house.  I had emptied this bag several times over during the hunt for the Missing Keys.  So, naturally, I figured that God must be trying to teach me something.

I thought back to how distressed I had been when Eli wouldn't listen to me.  The fact that had Eli been listening then my keys would probably never have been lost in the first place.  I would have come into the house, calmly, and placed the keys on the side, where they always live.

There are lots of lessons I could draw out of this experience about parenting, patience etc but the one that really stuck out to me was about listening.

How many times does God call our names and we are just too preoccupied to listen?  Whatever we are rooting around for on the ground has captured our attention and no amount of hollering will distract us.

How many times do we miss out on something amazing because we just aren't tuned in to hearing what God wants to say to us?

This has been my challenge over the past few weeks, and continues to be my challenge.  To find time in my schedule to just sit and listen.  It's not always easy but I'm trying to make it the first thing I do each morning.  To wait in bed just that little bit longer before I get up and enter the chaos that is life with two small children, before my time gets sucked into school runs and playgroups and food shopping and washing clothes and writing my novel and all those many many things that can draw my attention from the only person who truly deserves it.


'...if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding - indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.' Proverbs 2 v 2-6

This week why don't you stop, just for a short time, in the busyness of your everyday and listen to what God might be saying to you?

Monday, 18 November 2013

Finding Destiny

Last week the annual fair came to town and I prepared myself to face the usual begging techniques from Meg as she tried to persuade me that she was big enough to go on every single ride there was.  I was laughing with a friend about allowing Meg to go on the bigger fairground rides and how I couldn't shake the fear that they were constructed in less than a day and so how on earth could they be safe?  'Thank God I know my child has a destiny!' I remarked, laughing merrily.

Several days later I found myself clinging on for dear life (never mind the two super strong carabiners holding me in place) on a platform, a significant distance above the ground, battling wave after wave of nausea, frantically trying to batten down the hatches in the part of my brain which was screaming out that I could plunge to my demise with one wrong step.  To make matters worse the wind had picked up and I was really not sure I could carry on.

Then a voice, gently said to me, '...and what about your destiny?'

I'm a big one for God speaking to me visually, as those who read Finding Life might already know.  I think I have so many thoughts bouncing around competing for space in my brain that it's only when I'm faced with something right in front of me that I stop and listen to what God is saying.  Nobody's perfect, right?

Anyway, back to the platform in the beautiful forest and blustery wind.

Right at that moment, Holy Spirit was there with me, asking, prompting and reassuring.

'The God who made the trees and this very wind you are afraid of.  The God who chose you, hand-crafted you and watches over you.  What does HE say your destiny is?'

I find myself at the moment, well for the past few years really, downplaying myself and my abilities.  Dismissing dreams and ideas as useless, selfish or unimportant.  Wanting so very much to make a difference but at a loss as to how I can achieve that when the dreams that I have seem so lofty and out of my grasp.

Recently, a fellow blogger felt inspired to gather together some Christian female bloggers based in the UK and start a group where we could be open and share with each other.  Out of that has come an idea to have a collective blog or linky where we can join together to form a network of UK Christian women bloggers.  I am so excited by the potential this has and haven't been able to stop thinking it over since the idea was first suggested.  It feels very timely and very right.

Writing is one of the dreams I always carried but had dismissed after having children and settling down, thinking that my time had passed and I wouldn't be able to find the time to write alongside everything else I was doing.  In September, stepping out and following God's call on my life saw me leaving my job as an Office Administrator and becoming a full time writer.  Since then I have seen so many doors opened, it has been almost unbelievable.  Almost.

I am confident that this is another step in the right direction, this network of women who can share the gospel and evangelise using the power of the written word.  By being honest and real, and us.  Each woman in the group has a different story to tell, a different experience and collectively this is going to result in something amazing.

'There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.' Ecclesiastes 3:1

I feel challenged at this moment to acknowledge that I have an amazing and God-given destiny and that no matter how hard the wind might blow, whether I feel like I'm hanging on by my fingertips or whether stepping forwards is as easy as stepping off the platform to come down that last zip-wire, full of joy and relief...however it feels, I can't pretend that God hasn't placed a specific call on my life.  He has.  I'm not sure exactly what that looks like but I believe that this is my time to find my destiny...and although it's exciting and terrifying in equal parts, it's going to be amazing.

One of my favourite books in the bible is Esther.  Some time ago I received a word from God which said I was called to be an Esther in my generation.  I have never known what that meant exactly, I still don't know but I have always held it close to my heart, waiting.  Maybe now is the time?

'For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place...and who knows but that you have come to the position for such a time as this.' Esther 4:14

How is God challenging you at the moment?

Monday, 4 November 2013

Finding Life

I had been having a terrible week, you know the kind of week where everything you touch seems to shrivel and die.  It made me want to curl up under my duvet and not rear my head for about a decade, I was just so fed up.  I'm quite an emotional person and it takes a lot of conscious effort for me to not be ruled by how I'm feeling.  When carrying out daily activities is hard work then I know I'm about at the point where I've had enough.

So, I was having one of those weeks.  I'd just got off the phone to my husband telling him the latest things which had turned belly up for us and I went outside into the garden to get some fresh air.  

Over the summer I had planted various things and tried to grow them, without success.  I am not green fingered in the slightest and at the moment my garden bears witness to this.  It looks kind of like a plant graveyard actually, with black and wizened strawberry plants and flowers and things littered around.  One of the things I had tried my hand at was a tomato plant.  I had successfully got the plant part to grow but it hadn't produced any kind of fruit before it too had succumbed and died.

I was wandering around the garden feeling sorry for myself when I noticed a flash of red out of the corner of my eye.  I headed over to the plant pot and there, hanging off a very dead looking stem was a bright red tomato.  I couldn't believe it, how on earth had the tomato managed to grow when everything around it was dead and dying?

God spoke to me as I was standing there in wonder looking at this tomato and trying to prevent the dog from eating it.  He reminded me that He is the restorer, He takes what is broken and makes it like new.  Even in the darkest of places, the bleakest of circumstances, when everything around you feels rotten and destroyed and broken, He can call forth life.  Not just any life either, but a life of abundance and of freedom.

Sometimes we are going to have a bad week.  But God doesn't stop being amazing.

Sometimes we are going to feel like we've reached our limit and had enough.  But God doesn't stop calling us forwards into the life He has destined for us.

Sometimes we are going to cry out in despair, wondering how anything else could possibly go wrong.  Call out to God and He will come and wrap his loving and protective arms around you, carry you and guide you.

God is a God of light and life and love.

If you are feeling fed up just remember that God can revitalise and refresh you, He can bring you back to a place of enjoying life even if you can't see it!  Take some time to stop and reflect, to remember and regenerate.  Then pick yourself up and move forwards with God.

He is the Giver of Life.

'In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' John 1 v 4-5

and my favourite version of all - The Message, how awesome is this:

'What came into existence was Life, and The Life was Light to live by.  The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn't put it out.' John 1 v 4-5

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Hello, My Old Friend

I can't start this post in any way other than by saying I was shocked when I realised how long it has been since I've come here to write, to share.  Life got a bit busy, a bit hectic and things began to fall by the wayside, this blog included.  It was harder to find the time to put aside to come and focus on what God was saying.  So I didn't.  I kept 'meaning to' but good intentions are useless without action aren't they?

On Sunday, the Pastor was talking about Devotional Pathways and the different ways we each engage with God best.  I was hit by this sudden sense of loss whilst I was listening, and aware that I wasn't utilising my devotional pathway at all.  I meet with God in a variety of ways, through music and dance, through nature, I guess I fall into the 'reflective' category.  But the times when I know I'm meeting with God is when I'm doing what I believe I was called to do, write.  By not writing, I'm not giving myself 100% over to God.  I'm not doing the very thing that I know God wants me to be doing.

I don't have a reason for this, other than laziness.  We are going through a huge transitional period as a family and having to adjust so much, life doesn't look the same as it did 2 weeks ago let alone 4 months ago and whilst my brain is frantically trying to sift through it all and make sense, things have been pushed to the side and forgotten about.

The worst part is, I've been wandering around carrying this great sense of something being missing, life not being enough any more.  I've felt like I'm holding a ball of wool in my hands and it's unravelling faster and faster and no matter how many times I try to gather all the threads back together, they don't look or fit right.  I recognise now (hindsight is a wonderful thing!) that I've been missing my devotional time.  My time with God.  I've been trying to sort it out my own way and then wondering why I feel like there's something not quite right.  

Thank goodness God doesn't operate a 'three strikes and you're out' policy otherwise I'd be toast!

As we come out of this period of adjustment, I'm setting myself the challenge of making sure I find the time each week to have some devotional time.  I'd like to say every day but I know at the minute, that our lives are too hectic and I'd soon become overwhelmed with guilt when I failed to make that happen.

I am so excited for what this blog could become, and I really want to give some time to sharing the thoughts and ideas that God has put on my heart.  Hopefully I can make that happen!

I love this version of Matthew 6 v 33 from the Message as I think it's so relevant to what I've been forgetting lately:

'Steep your life in God-reality, God initiative  God-provisions.  Don't worry about missing out.  You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.'

Jess x

Friday, 17 May 2013

God is in the Small Stuff {Learning contentment}

"I have learned in whatever situation, I am be to be content" Phillippians 4 v 11 

It's a massive challenge to me to learn contentment.  I'm such a 'next stage' person, always considering what our next move should be and what we should be looking to do.

With wanting so desperately for my husband to find a new job and him not being successful despite a handful of opportunities, we're feeling the strain of our existing situation tenfold.  Every late night, stressful scenario, cancelled days leave, is just another load to bear.

How can you learn contentment when your situation seems so rubbish?

I believe the following steps can help (I am writing these from a place of reflection and as a challenge to myself!)

Learning and remembering to give thanks for the small things.  

Sometimes, we're so preoccupied with looking up, asking God to move in and change our circumstances, that we don't pay attention to God working in the small stuff.  Take, for example, the fact that in the past month we have had around 5 car break-ins on our street and yet (quite by accident) my car sat unlocked for three days and was totally untouched.  God is working in the small things!

I think sometimes it can feel like we're looking for God in every day scenarios but the truth is that God is interested in the everyday.  If he knows the number of hairs on our head you can be sure he knows all the minute details of our lives and cares about them!

It's important as well to give thanks for those small details.  I have recently joined in with a linky on Catch A Single Thought called 'Reasons to be cheerful' which is all about finding the joy in the small every day things.  Never take things for granted.  I know several families who are dealing with sickness at the moment and that makes me so thankful to God for my own, healthy family.

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" Thessalonians 5 v 16-18

Remember that God is in control of our lives.
If we truly believe that, and can have faith that God has a perfect plan for us, then we don't need to sweat over what the next stage of our lives will look like.  We just need to listen to what God is saying right now and be obedient.

This also means giving our expectations up and surrendering them to God.  What I want my life to look like; how I think things should work out; in my ideal world what would our lives be...this can be tricky as I believe that God does place dreams and desires on our hearts.  But the key here is that if it truly is a God given dream, then by moving when God says move, and being obedient to him, then the dreams and desires God has given us will come to fruition.

Don't compare your lives and situations with other peoples.
We have no idea of what goes on behind closed doors and whilst people may seem to have it all sorted out and to be in the right place, we really can't know the personal struggles they are going through.

Does anyone else have any tips for learning how to be content?  I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Feeling Cornered

Why is it that things always seem to go belly up all at once?  We're only on the second day of the month, a month which is going to be extremely time precious for me and everything has started to unravel at the seams.  No, not unravel as that indicates a slow process; burst wide open would be more apt!

Firstly, it is Eli's birthday party this Saturday and Meg's the week after.  I had hoped that I would have lots of space this week to finalise details and get everything ready.  So naturally Meg was up most of the night on Sunday being sick, meaning I had to take the day off work on Monday.  Eli then followed suit and has become increasingly unwell throughout the week meaning someone was going to have to take the day off today with him.  This is always a point of contention in our house as my husband will never take days off and would rather cart the children off to nursery regardless of their health and wellbeing (ok, I may be exaggerating a teensy bit...) so it has caused the house to be full of tension which I hate.

On top of that we booked a holiday with our savings and paid in full and then our washing machine broke, so now we are living with no washing machine.  Trust me when I say that a husband who works on building sites, two small children and a dog don't mix well with no washing machine.  I never thought I would be craving the day I could do a load of washing but there you go, I am!

The job that we were so hopeful about for my husband has gone totally silent, after being head-hunted and told the company were so keen to meet him, he hasn't yet made it to interview stage yet so we just don't think it's going to happen.

It's easy, with hindsight, to comment on how you knew God always had a plan, was always walking alongside you as evidenced by the small things that you perhaps didn't see at the time but what about when you're living in it?

In my heart I know that God has a plan but when I'm living out my day to day life and it's one negative thing after the next I feel like I've lost control and I just want to climb into bed and pretend that everything around me doesn't exist.

It's learning to walk through the negatives with your head up, trusting in God that he will guide us through.  I can vouch for the fact that it is not easy.  At all.

A few weeks ago, I came across this song and instantly fell in love with it.  I initially related to it in terms of stepping out into all that God has for us but as I was singing it yesterday in the desperate hope that it would help Eli to go to sleep, I considered that it actually applies to all situations in our lives.

"I will call upon your name, keep my eyes above the waves.

When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace.
I am yours, and you are mine."

Right now it feels like I am being completely belted by my waves and more like I'm drowning than walking but I guess that's where reliance on God comes into it.

The knowledge that he works all things for our good, not just some of them, or the amount that our behaviour merits.  All things.

I'm sorry this is something of a mournful post today.  It would be so easy to write this down and then not click on 'publish', to vent my thoughts and feel better in myself but never get further than that but I don't think that's right.  I started this blog to share all aspects of my walk of faith and that means the positive and the negative.  

So, bear with me on this one please.  I hope to bring you some cheerier news next time!!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Jump {Five Minute Friday}

Five Minute Friday

I'm joining in with Five Minute Friday as usual this week.  If you don't know what it is then in short:

1. Write for 5 minutes flay on the prompt with no editing, tweaking or self critiquing.

2. Link back and invite others to join in.

3. Go and tell the person who linked up before you what their words meant to you.  Every writer longs to feel heard.

This week's prompt is Jump



That terrifying moment when your heart is beating wildly, so much so that you feel as though it will burst out of your chest; your mouth feels dry, your hands are clammy...and you have a choice to make about whether you close your eyes and go for it or whether you take a step back and walk away.

How often are we faced with moments like this in our walk of faith?  One of the testers I have as to whether something is from God is how terrified it makes me feel.  If I start to feel panicky, nervous and twitchy...then it’s usually a God thing.  God likes to challenge us, he likes to move us out of our comfort zones and forwards into his plan.

A few years ago I visited Zambia (I say a few, it was almost 8 years!) and whilst we were there a friend did a bungee jump over the Zambezi.  I can remember watching him and thinking what an absolutely crazy person he was.  How desperate for an adrenaline high do you have to get to willingly throw yourself off a bridge over a raging torrent of water?  There was no way I would ever do something like that.  Not a chance!

Walking with God can sometimes feel like that though I think.  Part of the learning journey I am on at the moment, and I'm sure if you've read each of my posts you’ll soon be sick of me sharing about it, is how much we need to rely on God.  That moment when you feel utterly scared about what you are being called to do, that’s the moment when you need to put your trust 100% into God.  It cannot be done in your own strength; it has to be in God’s.

We are all called by God to live such amazing lives.  Each of us has our own perfectly handcrafted plan and to walk in the fullness of that plan we need to walk hand in hand with God.  I don’t think it can be done any other way.  Yes it will mean risks, it will mean leaps of faith, it will mean taking a deep breath and trusting that our God is always there to catch us.

Have you ever made a physical jump? There’s that moment when you are totally exhilarated, almost weightless and you feel completely free.  Your mind clears and when you land you feel as though you could take on the world.  However scary it might seem taking that initial step, think about the rewards of what you will be leaping into. Go for it!