Before Work …

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Ok .. sooooo who has time to begin blogging before they go to work ???

Clearly I do …

And the above picture encapsulates how I attempt to begin my day (not always successfully, by the way) …
Bible. . Notepad. . Highlighter . .
And a heart bursting at the seams with a complex mixture of love / loss / happy /sad /need /desire … etc ..

There is so much of my life that I love and appreciate ..
And other things which cause me pain and sadness.

Mornings (especially because I am Not a morning person) are usually a slow start.
I set my alarm for 2 hours before I need to leave home .. I bound (not really).. more accurately is *stumble .. from bed .. Aim for the kitchen and switch on the coffee machine ..
Once that sweet Cappacino foam, covered in chocolate, hits my lips .. there begins my ability to think about my day.

The dogs sleep blissfully at my feet… (Hoping that it’s my day off and then they get to stay inside).

Today though . . No chance . .

I am thankful for the sunshine and blue sky outside..
My thoughts turn to the things on my mind and heart. .

Today it is my family.

The complexity of relationships. .
Unique personalities .. The way we are shaped by who we are and also by the environment in which we were raised.

My thoughts turn to prayer.

I was especially touched recently by the movie ‘War Room’.
It is about relationships and prayer. Both are things very close to my heart ..

Prayer changes us .. prayer – in line with God’s spirit – makes us more like Him .. keeps us honest, accountable .. allows us to love others in ways that don’t just come naturally.
We become more sacrificial. .less selfish. . God uses us in ways that we don’t expect and couldn’t imagine. . I love it when that happens. . You just know that it’s Him ..

I learn to trust more and fear less ..

This past year has had lots of challenges for me personally.

I have a precious friend who has a difficult health challenge … yet being the amazing and Godly example she has always been .. continues to love God and extend grace to those around her. Still managing to smile and be an encouragement ūüôā

I endured a job situation which was abusive and drove me to a state of mind that I never thought possible from a ‘job’ ..

There are people close to me with health challenges ..
Physical .. emotional .. battles to be fought and God willing, to be won ..

And yet somehow . . Not by anything I can ‘conjure up’ .. but by knowing the one who created me .. I don’t just ‘survive’ ..

I live each day ..
Thankful ..
That God has a plan ..
And a purpose .. for me ..

Not just me .. But you . .

YES ..

YOU

as well.

For I know the plans I have for you,‚ÄĚ says the Lord. ‚ÄúThey are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. [12] In those days when you pray, I will listen. [13] If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
Jeremiah 29 : 11-13 NLT

Broken and Bruised

So .. I decided NOT to attach a photo to today’s Blog Post …

You may ask why???

Well ….¬† It’s because I decided that being broken and bruised looks very different to each of us ..

Some days it’s physical and visible ..

And other days it’s emotional – on our heart, or a mental battle – for our thoughts.

It might be all three at once.

However pain appears in each of our lives – it is no less real or any less important.

To the one who is enduring a shock diagnosis,  or to the relative or friend that wants to comfort them ..
The family member suffering depression or mental illness .. a job loss .. an accident .. a struggle at work ..
The Mum raising small children or helping keep teenagers on track .. the Dad doing overtime to make ends meet.
A broken relationship …

Life can be really hard.

There are no quick or easy solutions.

I know Рfor me,  the loving support of a friend Рwho Рjust by listening to me, is often the soothing balm that helps me survive the day ..

Plenty of times I have cried out to God in prayer .. and I am reassured that He hears me even if a solution isn’t instant – or the answer that I was hoping for.
This reassurance has come as I have learned to rely on God .. knowing my own limitations .. flaws .. and failures .. and accepting that I don’t have to be perfect or assume every body else’s expectations of me ..
These things have only come as I understand who God is .. and allow and accept His purpose for my life ..

If you don’t yet know who God is .. I would encourage you to read one of what are called ‘The Gospels’ ,

(Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) ..

I personally have never read the Bible from cover to cover, but have read or studied verses and chapters .. either on my own – or as a part of a small group. Both are really helpful.

You can also buy ‘study guides’.. that focus on a particular subject -and¬†use verses from the Bible – which relate to that subject .. Again – an¬†exceptionally helpful way to understand things from Gods perspective ..

I have verses which mean a lot to me – that I find an encouragement –

‘I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.’

Psalm 16:8

My all time fave is : 

Proverbs 3:5,6

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
 Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

and on a Sunday evening – the encouragement from my Church family is

‘ If God is for us, who can ever be against us?’ Romans 8:31

reading the Bible isn’t a magic formula for happiness and success – but it is the best way to understand who God is, who Jesus is .. and why your story is so important ..

It is accepting Jesus as saviour .. that opens the way for you to have a real and personal relationship with Him .. and it’s the fresh start that we all need ūüôā

Sunday …

Serenity

How quickly the weeks fly by ….¬† So much transpires in one week – that it’s often difficult to keep up ..

I find myself some days appreciating time Рand yet others, I think I understand what a mouse feels like in one of those wheels Рrunning, endlessly and getting nowhere ..

Do you feel caught ? trapped ? as if time is passing like groundhog day ??? Alarm goes off – get up, make coffee, feed dogs, put them outside, shower, hair, makeup, jump in car, drive to work, find a parking spot… work, lunch, home, dinner, TV, bed .. HIT repeat … Days off – usually housework and washing …

Sometimes though it’s a walk in the sun, some fun with the family … How that does refresh us .. (we should make regular time for this) …

I don’t know about you – but I think that we often delay the pleasures of life – by putting too much emphasis on all that we need to do today .. and I don’t think that’s the way that we are intended to live – but I am working this out .. and as I think about the reality of my everyday – I realise that this is not a new issue – people have been struggling with the very¬†same thoughts, since the beginning of time – my thoughts turn¬†to these verses in Ecclesiastes .. another fellow traveller trying to grasp how¬†a¬†life lived well actually looks …

A Time for Everything

3 For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8 A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do people really get for all their hard work? 10 I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. 12 So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. 13 And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.

Ecclesiastes 3 3 -13 (NLT)

Now – I am off to sit in the sunshine with a cup of tea … before it’s time to hop back onto the treadmill of life ..

I shall enjoy the sunshine , watch the birds … appreciate the treasures that God has provided me with today.

I pray that you can use this day for something that makes you smile too ūüôā

The ‘Non Ice Bucket’ Challenge

This evening .. During an encouraging chat with a friend … I was issued with a challenge …

Unlike the Ice Bucket Challenge, which was originally designed to raise funds for Motor Neurone Disease and¬†has in recent times become a Social media focus .. I was given¬†something a bit more¬†reflective rather than an action thing …

The challenge that my friend gave me was¬† ‘So……..when did you last love someone extravagantly?’…

I pondered deeply .. What does it mean to me – to love extravagantly ? Or to be loved extravagantly ?

First thing that comes to mind is stuff … Giving gifts .. getting a surprise gift .. and those things are good .. when someone cares about me .. thinks about my likes .. the things that bring me joy .. and surprises me with something that lets me know that I am remembered, thought about, cared about ..

Thoughts are now tick, tick, ticking away in my head … I have just ordered something for my husband for his Birthday .. I wanted to surprise him .. taking note of something that he would not buy for himself .. I researched so hard .. Found one in Italy ??? Italy of all places .. (good old eBay) … I purchased this model of a car that he loves (and we could never afford to buy¬†the real thing) … It’s on it’s way .. won’t be here for his Birthday – but very soon after .. I printed a photo from the computer to place inside his card ..

So excited that I had put so much thought into this .. found the exact model and Hey- he would get a

H U G E surprise when I presented this to him …I was pretty darn pleased with myself too ….

Until

Apparently the screen saver on our computer is set to ‘My Pictures’… and when I saved that photo to print out and pop inside his card .. Well you guessed the rest – I walk into the computer room .. he is sitting at the computer .. smiling like a kid in a candy shop … and suffice to say – The model car is no longer a surprise .. Poo Bum …

This –¬†to me –¬†was a major disappointment … an ‘epic fail’ .. as they say ..

That is until H set this challenge ..

Now I see that in this case¬†it is ‘the thought that counts’.. To make someone else feel like they count ..¬†know that¬†they matter …¬†That they are thought about , cared about, loved …

To LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY … doesn’t necessarily mean to BE EXTRAVAGANT ..

Just take a look at the Dictionary definitions of extravagant …. I think when my friend set this challenge – that she was talking about Number 4.

ex‚ÄĘtrav‚ÄĘa‚ÄĘgant

(…™kňąstr√¶v …ô g…ônt)¬†
adj.

1. spending much more than is necessary or wise: an extravagant shopper.
2. excessively high: extravagant prices.
3. exceeding the bounds of reason or moderation: extravagant demands.
4. going beyond what is deserved or justifiable: extravagant praise.
5. elaborate or showy.
6. Obs. wandering.
This got me thinking about how Jesus loved …
the kind of love that enabled Him to pray for the two men beside him in Luke 23:32-34

32¬†Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33¬†When they came to a place called The Skull,e]”>[e] they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified‚ÄĒone on his right and one on his left.

34¬†Jesus said, ‚ÄúFather, forgive them, for they don‚Äôt know what they are doing.‚ÄĚf]”>[f] And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.g]”>[g]

Now … THAT… IS … Extravagant love …

A Mothers Heart …

2015-04-28 12.34.01 So .. tomorrow is Mothers day …

This morning I read a very interesting piece regarding Mothers day … and a lot of it resonated with me ..

I shall start with an excerpt .. It is written by a Christian – who is no nonsense and tells it ‘like it is’.. far better than I would ever have the courage to do.

Her name is Anne Lamott, this excerpt is from her Facebook page, today the 9th of May 2015.

‘I¬†did not raise my son, Sam, to celebrate Mother‚Äôs Day. I didn‚Äôt want him to feel some obligation to buy me pricey lunches or flowers, some annual display of gratitude that you have to grit your teeth and endure. Perhaps Mother‚Äôs Day will come to mean something to me as I grow even dottier in my dotage, and I will find myself bitter and distressed when Sam dutifully ignores the holiday. Then he will feel ambushed by my expectations, and he will retaliate by putting me away even sooner than he was planning to ‚ÄĒ which, come to think of it, would be even more reason to hate Mother‚Äôs Day.’

So .. for me personally¬†– Mother’s day is a day on which I feel immense guilt .. I have not and know that I will never measure up to what society holds dear in it’s expectation of what a Mum should be .. I don’t have the Hallmark imprint on my Mothering, and I find that it’s the one day of the year that I feel the most inadequate as a woman .. Like I have let down myself, my family and the institution of Motherhood around the world ..

That’s pretty tough to admit .. but nonetheless it’s true – it’s my feelings .. I own them ..

There are so many tears shed over a life time of things that I could have done better, not done at all, should have done .. CANNOT change …

If I allowed myself to think too much about these things –¬†I (and my box of Kleenex), would never leave my bedroom ..

I suspect that I may not be alone in my thoughts ?

Truth is … ¬†I am imperfect …

Yep – Big surprise there ūüôā

As I struggle to do things differently to how I used to do them when my children were little .. thinking about my families needs in a different light .. now that they are grown up ..

I try to put myself in their shoes, see things from their perspective .. I want so much to fix everything and make it better .. That is where the guilt springs from .. I can’t .. I never will be able to ‘Do Over’ what I screwed up .. I cannot make their lives easier, or better, or peaceful .. or tell them what does and doesn’t work .. because in reality – we all have our own path to take .. or our¬†own ideas on child raising, our own capacity to love another .. and we bring into that what we learned from our own parents .. the¬†good and the bad ..

Tomorrow for me is NOT a celebration of Mothers .. it’s a day that I will get¬†to ‘hang with the fam’.. yep .. however that pans out .. Make new memories with the grandkids .. Spend time with my sister … I won’t see one of my kids .. but we had a great chat this morning .. about stuff ..

That is my reality ..

I must choose to live it – just the way it is .. and thankfully … I am not alone …

‘Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother‚Äôs womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.’ Ecclesiastes 11:5 NLT

Life’s Mysteries…

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This morning I awoke to the most fierce weather, that I can ever remember experiencing ..

No home phone. No internet (other than the phone data on my Mobile phone) ..

Trees down .. My freshly cleaned porch – a total devastation.

The foundations that my husband had prepared for his shed, resemble an in ground swimming pool ..

We still have electricity .. When so many thousands of locals don’t ..

It was meant to be the first day back at School after the two week Easter break ..

Most schools are remaining closed today, for safety ..

I am amazed at the photo’s and weather reports on Social Media ..

In all of this – I cannot help but be abundantly thankful ..

It definitely makes me realise how much – I do normally, take for granted..

We are blessed with hot running water …. Phones ..
So much technology that we are literally spoiled for choice ! .. Heating .. Cooling .. Cars ..
Jobs .. Homes …

So .. very .. BLESSED …

At the moment I hear sirens and chainsaws ..

Which means that help is on it’s way to the many people who are in immediate need.

So blessed again, to know that there are Volunteers and people who are employed in the Emergency Services – to help in times such as this..

I am also very thankful – to live in a country – where we have access to every kind of help that is possible.
Hospitals, Education, Community workers ..

I cannot imagine what it would be like to live, in a country that doesn’t have such help available ..

The heartache of not being able to feed my family. Or literally not having a roof over their heads..

So today I resolve to appreciate more ..

Love more ..

Share more ..

And when I slip from this .. I pray that God will remind me ..
Of all that I have..
And all that I am ..
Because of His love for me .


To them that God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Colossians 1:27 NIV

More than just Hair ….

So this is the one thing that I have looked forward to the WHOLE week .. A week that has been the usual up and down .. with some added ‘challenges’ for good measure …

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I go to the hairdresser on average – every 6 weeks .. occasionally I have to make it on the fifth week ..

It’s my ‘thing’ … getting my hair done .. along with coffee with friends¬†– one of my greatest pleasures.
I can live without lots of luxuries, but hairdressing is in my blood .. literally ..
My grandmother was a hairdresser .. My Thursday night / Saturday Morning job throughout High School and in the first year of my marriage was in a Hairdressing Salon (I even commenced an apprenticeship – but sadly my hands couldn’t cope with the chemicals) .. I also have a sister who is a hairdresser. I was happy to sweep the floor, dust stock, even enjoyed the smell of the solutions, shampoos etc ..

Now .. I find the 1 1/2 hours spent there therapeutic. The decision to keep my current style VS a new one thought about frequently .. Maybe even a new colour ?

I enjoy the scalp massage at the basin as my cares are washed away down the drain for at least 10 minutes … I feel fresh and invigorated when I leave ..

I think that part of the attraction is the people connection .. you form a relationship with your hairdresser.

You have to trust that they will listen to you .. That they can interpret what you mean when you say you only want a ‘little bit’ off .. (because a ‘little bit’ to me – might¬†mean a ‘lot’ to you) ¬†… Hairdressers are also artists in my opinion .. so I need to connect with their STYLE of creativity..

My trip to the hairdresser reminds me of the importance of communication in any relationship … of both parties knowing where they stand .. Of feeling comfortable to be honest ..

Not all relationships have that kind of maturity – some people are highly sensitive, and others insensitive ..

Some have no verbal filter and their thoughts just pop out … Some are very caring, others self absorbed.

But .. the only person in the whole world – that I know with certainty – that I can have any influence in changing …

is

ME

That is so important for me to remember.

It will help me overcome the frustrations of expecting something different from someone who is not capable of

or ready for

CHANGE …

My only hope of having any peace in my life – is to please the very one who created me – by treating others – the same way I want to be treated …

EVEN if they don’t respond in kind ..

Not that I have to be a doormat – I can still speak honestly and not allow myself to be pushed around. But there is definitely a respectful way to do that. It is called ‘speaking the truth in love’…

and this is what the Bible has to say about it.

Ephesians 4:15 Amplified Bible (AMP)

15 Rather, let our lives lovingly [a]express truth [in all things, speaking truly, dealing truly, living truly]. Enfolded in love, let us grow up in every way and in all things into Him Who is the Head, [even] Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).

Something from nothing …

Isaiah 51:3 NIV
The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.

I just love the fact that God can make something beautiful from what I perceive to be tragedy ..
In those verses of Isaiah I am reminded that He can take my ruins and turn them around .. Which is so encouraging, because I think that most days the ‘ruins’ override anything positive that I may have contributed to this life.

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A Peacock at the local zoo – in fine display

When we think of beauty .. it is often something in nature that inspires us.
For me – I see a sunset, or the lapping of waves against fine, white sand .. a glorious blue sky with puffy, vanilla clouds .. tall green, leafy trees with colourful birds darting in and out of their branches … birds with a rainbow-coloured array of feathers that glint in the sunshine ..

What is it for you?

What opens the eyes to your soul and makes you gasp with sheer joy at the beauty in the world?

The older I get the more I discover beauty in people ..

When I was younger – I tended to only look at the surface – and fill in the blanks in my head somehow. Now I am constantly amazed by the depth of character we have. Each one of us is shaped by our personality – yes .. But we are also shaped by our upbringing, our relationships, our friends and the things that happen to us. For good and .. sometimes not-so-good.

This all creates so many layers to who we are (picture an onion).

We are all unique – and that is a good thing … not a society of clones .. but beautiful and complex ..

If we take the time to know others, they may peel back a layer. This is a revelation and the beauty that makes us who we are.

Sometimes like the bark on a tree –¬† parts of us may be hardened by things that have happened to us. These are the bits that I am reminded that I need to take to God in prayer – so that He may use them for His glory. Often I know that¬†the twinge of defensiveness (or a reaction not quite fitting a certain situation), is a result of something else that may have even happened years ago. Sometimes this¬†may take a while to register, and If I am wise and not too stubborn – I can allow God to grow me¬†through it ūüôā

So .. If I am so ruined, unique and complex .. I guess I am not the only one ??? My spouse, kids, family, friends, colleagues, neighbours – ALL need me to cut them some slack when they aren’t perfect …

That can be difficult for me to do ..

Good news for them (and me) is that my eyes have been really opened this week. I have been challenged as to how my actions can have a positive or negative affect in a situation, or a relationship. Without expecting perfection from myself I intend to be more conscious and less emotional in conversation and in action ..

Prayerfully, so that ¬†‘Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing’… (maybe not the singing) ūüôā

.. T R U S T ..

TRUST … a growing thing ..

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This is a poem .. written today .. just now .. in the moment …

Impressed on my heart, as I continue to read Bonnie Gray’s book ‘Finding Spiritual Whitespace’ …

I am enjoying it and the effect it is having on me ..

Challenging .. encouraging ..

As I grow .. God is increasing my understanding of Trust ..

Rainy Day Thoughts …

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OK … so the picture above is definitely NOT a rainy day ….

it was taken several weeks ago in the beautiful city of Sydney .. while sipping cocktails with friends. Amazing !

But I shall set the scene and explain the rainy day reference.

At this very moment, I am tucked up in my bed .. listening to the rain as it falls softly on the tin roof of my patio. The only noise registering above the rain – is the snoring of one of my dogs – as she blissfully enjoys the fact that it’s my day off, so she is privileged to be able to be inside with me ūüôā
I have coffee .. and a candle burning *insert soft glow and beautiful fragrance here*
On my breakfast menu is yummy toast with apricot jam and cheese (may not appeal to all .. but I think it’s delicious).
Along with the rain –¬†is just the right amount of wind to make the gum branches sway, and their soft,¬† green leaves rustle ….

If this alone was how I lived my life every day .. it sounds peaceful .. heavenly and most definitely a blessing. And it is …

But .. as you can probably imagine РI am a real person Рwith struggles,  just like the rest of humanity.

This past week has had trouble and strife – work related conflict – drudgery … beautiful catch ups,¬† a three year olds Birthday Party (loud, crazy fun with family) …

Now – I am guessing that this view of life is probably a similar theme for most of us?

Sometimes it’s difficult to reconcile the polar extremes that make up our lives. I am learning that God wants me to be thankful in all situations and at all times. I have found some excellent tools for growth and encouragement in several blogger / authors words.
In particular Ann Voskamp and Bonnie Gray .. neither of them have the perfect life and yet they shine thankfulness .. and exude encouragement ..
They most certainly ‘keep it real’ .. as does Nina Roesner .. another beautiful Christian author who makes no secret of her struggles, but lives and loves – as only someone who knows Jesus can ..

I take heart as I read of how these women respond to life’s challenges and share what they learn. I love their bravery .. their courage .. their thankfulness.

I am also greatly inspired by the women that God has placed directly in my life. They may not have written a book .. but I love to ‘follow them, as they follow Jesus’ as one friend puts it …

Sometimes it’s as simple as seeing a friend place one foot of T R U S T after the other .. in spite of circumstance .. that shines the brightest spark.

In my own moments of doubt .. I don’t see that God can make any use of my sinful life ..

I was reminded yesterday though, of the people we see as great heroes of the Bible .. also not being perfect … Abraham, David, Paul .. even Noah ..

So ….¬† In light of this … I shall endeavour not to be so hard on myself ..

A verse of encouragement … from Psalm 56:3,4 NLT

‘But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.¬† I praise God for what he has promised.¬† I trust in God,¬† so why should¬†I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?’