Faith, Lifestyle

The Choice – part 1

I am a sucker for a romantic movie, and my favourite one of all time is The Choice (closely followed by The Notebook). Both movies feature couples whose love beats all the odds and whose choices affect their entire lives.

We find a similar love story in the book of Ruth, a woman who was faced with a series of choices that would change not just her life but the lives of all mankind. But first let me give you a bit of the backstory.

The story of Ruth was written at the same time as Judges, and in this book we learn that the Israelites had no strong spiritual leadership. There had been several Judges appointed to bring law and order, but they had failed, and now ‘everyone did whatever seemed right to him.’ Judges 21:25

We all know that a lack of leadership can lead to vigilante style law. A lack of rules leads to rebellion, and this was certainly true of Israel at this time. This was not a stable economy, or safe society. A famine had broken out and the book begins with choice number one; Elimelech decides to flee his home town of Bethlehem with his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion.

Elimelech chooses Moab

After leaving Bethlehem, Elimelech settles in the land of Moab, but shortly after dies. His sons remain in Moab and take Moabite wives, Ruth and Orpah, however both of Elimelech’s sons die, leaving Naomi and her daughters in law destitute. In this day and age, it was not safe for a woman to be alone. Not only could she not provide for herself, but she could not protect herself either. Despite her deep grief at losing not only her husband, but her two children also, Naomi makes a choice to trust God. She decides that she will return to her homeland of Bethlehem upon hearing that ‘the Lord had paid attention to His people’s needs by providing them food.’ Ruth 1:6

Naomi chooses God

In choosing to trust God, she chooses to return home, but the she goes on to do another very selfless act. She tells her daughters to return home to their families. After many tears, Orpah decides to leave and is never mentioned again. Ruth on the other hand chose to stay and her name is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.

Ruth chooses Naomi

So much can hang on one decision. Ruth’s decision to stay with Naomi was not made on a whim, it was made on the basis of the faith she saw rise up in her mother in law despite such abject grief. It was made on the realisation that God could and would help her, if she followed Him. That even in her darkest days, through the hardest moments, God was still God. This challenges me so deeply. On my darkest days, can I truly say that my words and actions reflect God and who He is? Do my life choices speak of the faith that rises up in me in response to difficult circumstances?

Do others see God’s hand in our choices? Our faith in our responses?

Ruth didn’t just stay with Naomi, she left all that she knew behind. She chose to embrace a culture and a God that she had not been brought up in, she left was her family home. Ruth also went one step further in making vows to Naomi. These were a covenant promise before God. She vowed to travel with Naomi, to live with her, to make Naomi’s people her people, to worship Naomi’s God, to die where she dies and be buried where she is buried.

Those are some pretty big promises to a woman who is not a blood relative. But what happens next just blows my mind. As Ruth left her bloodline, God placed her in His royal line. Because of the choices that Ruth made, she became the great grandmother of King David, an ancestor of Jesus Christ.

As I reflected on this, I wondered how God felt toward Ruth, and why she was chosen for such a great honour. In the movie The Choice, local ladies man Travis meets his neighbour Gabby and is totally captivated by her. She gets under his skin in a way that no one else ever has, and he has a phrase he uses with her; ‘You bother me, baby.’ I believe that Ruth bothered God. I believe that she was so loved by God, that He could see her beautiful heart and He wanted to honour the choices she made.

This is just the same for us today. YOU bother God. You bother Him so much that He wrote the greatest love story in the world; He sent His Son to die for you. God sees your heart and He wants to use you to show His love and mercy the world over. He wants to place you in locations and situations that you could barely imagine just so He can pour His grace and favour into your life. You bother God, and maybe, just maybe this is the time you need to choose Him to be at the centre of your life. 

R x

 

Standard
Faith, Lifestyle

Speaking from Faith or Fear?

The threat of lockdown is now a reality. The ‘what ifs?’ are ‘what nows?’, and suddenly we are faced with a endless sea of uncertainty stretched out before us.

While I was doing my house work today, I noticed areas that had been overlooked for too long; cobwebs in corners and dust gathered in dark places. As I began to clean, God spoke to me so clearly and downloaded a message in my heart. He challenged me, as I was ‘keeping house’ at home and asked me what I was doing to keep house in my heart. What areas in my soul were dusty, what habits need to be addressed and what attitudes need to be swept out?

Proverbs 31 talks about a godly woman, and God drew me to verses 25-26; She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness.

I know I haven’t spoken with kindness this week. Fear and frustration have crept in and I have snapped. I have spoken harshly and made curt demands over kind instruction. It is easy to get fearful in this current climate. Coronavirus is sweeping the world and taking not just freedom, but finances, friends and family members. It threatens to devastate hundred of thousands of households physically, financially and emotionally. Yet we know that God is greater than any virus, and we know that God did not give us a spirit of fear and timidity but of power, love and self-discipline. 2 Tim 1:7

We need to dive into God’s word and spend time in His presence to be filled with faith for this season.

We need to practice being in His presence to be filled with faith

When I start to feel overwhelmed by the news reports, I need to turn to God’s report. I need to open my Bible and open my heart, and let the Holy Spirit fill me up so that I have faith to face the day. This needs to be a daily practice. Jesus knew this when He walked the earth and that’s why He modelled it for us by setting aside time to pray each day.

When we spend time in prayer and worship we are changed. We are clothed with God’s strength so we can laugh with no fear of the future. God’s love pours into us and flows through us, so we can better respond to news and better relate to others. When we are filled with faith we can better lead our families.

Take a few minutes today to consider how you are feeling, to consider what you are saying online and to those in your home. If you are overwhelmed, angry or frustrated you are likely speaking from a place of fear. Don’t worry, Jesus loves you too much to leave you that way. Hey into the word and into His presence and ask Him to fill you afresh so you can speak from faith.

R x

Standard
Faith, Lifestyle, Parenting

You are not alone

“Are you scared Mommy?” My wide eyed ten year old looked up at me from the sofa, where he has been watching the latest news unfold. I thought for a moment and took a deep breath before I answered him. I am a firm believer in telling our kids the truth, where appropriate, and I wanted to honour that while protecting my 6 and 3 year old who were also listening in.

Here is what I know; Covid-19 is gathering pace. The global pandemic is far from contained, and there is no telling what the true fall out will be in months and years from now. People are dying, grieving families are unable to mourn properly, and the elderly, infants, pregnant women and the infirm are facing months of solitary confinement. Right now we are facing some of the most challenging times in world history, with the government response being likened to a country at war. Only we are fighting an unseen enemy. The truth is, we have been fighting an unseen enemy since the beginning of time.

We have been fighting an unseen enemy since the beginning of time.

When the Devil was cast down from heaven, he made it his life’s mission to take us all down with him. He has been fighting tooth and nail, summoning all the powers and principalities to wage war against God and His children.

That means you.

You were created by God, for relationship with God and He loves you with every fibre of His being. Whether you believe in God is irrelevant, but you better believe that Satan believes in Him. The Devil is busy whipping up a perfect storm right now; stealing people’s joy, dripping doubts and fear into their every day and distracting them from God.

So what can we do? We need to be on our guard and we need to know what God says about adversity. Get in to your Bible, because lets face it the early Christians had their fair share of persecution, plagues and pestilence. We need to keep pressing in to Jesus, asking for guidance, praying for protection and resting in His peace.

Knowing Jesus isn’t going to guarantee you an easy ride. But when the storms come, it is far easier to keep putting one foot in front of the other when you fix your eyes on Him.

Peter and the disciples were facing the perfect storm; the waves rising, the boat capsizing. At first glance it looked like Jesus was doing nothing – He was asleep in the back of the boat! But when the disciples turned to Him and woke Him, He stood up and spoke to the storm. (Mark 4:35-41)

Jesus is in your boat, you just beed to ask Him to speak to the storm.

You may feel surrounded on all sides, you may see the water pooling at your feet, you may even feel the waves pulling you under. But look up, fix your eyes on Jesus and ask Him to speak.

Why did He let the storm happen? I believe that Jesus was giving the disciples a wake up call. He needed them to be shaken up to get their attention, and when they finally turned their attention to Him, His power could be revealed.

When our lives are shaken, our focus shifts.

Friends, Coronavirus is here and I believe that God wants to get our attention. The whole world is being shaken and we need to turn our attention to HIM. Am I scared? No, but we are facing scary times. We are fighting an unseen enemy, but please know that we are not fighting alone.

“The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14

R x

Standard
Adoption, Homeschool, Lifestyle, Parenting

Why we stopped homeschooling

I am sat drinking coffee alone in my favourite coffee shop reflecting on the last 12 months. Today is the first day back at school for our boys after we spent a year home educating them. The irony is not lost on me that it was in this coffee shop that we spent our first morning of homeschool last Easter.

There were many reasons for choosing to bring our children home, but the main reason was that we wanted Jesus to be at the centre of everything; our home life and the children’s education. They were in a faith school, and one that they loved, but we felt that we needed to give them something more. I was more concerned with their character than with their class performance, and decided to spend a year working together as a family at home.

I was more concerned with their character than with their class performance

The homeschool lifestyle is incredible. We thrived outside of timetables and schedules, we loved the freedom and spontaneity that homeschooling afforded our family, and we found such incredible friends within the homeschool community. We read books on books, we spent endless hours outdoors and learned a great deal about ourselves and each other. It was such a privilege to watch my boys grow in confidence, learn new social skills and make new discoveries.

So why end it all? That is a very good question.

We always said that we would homeschool for a year and then review our decision. On reviewing, we realised that our eldest was missing school terribly, and the truth was, I was floundering under the demands of educating two very different children while running two very different businesses. Home education is most definitely a ministry in and of itself, and is a huge sacrifice for parents.

I felt that God called me to homeschool, however it wasn’t my ‘calling’ and at times, I struggled to find my identity over the last year. I loved being with my children all the time, but as God continued to speak into my heart I felt a tension between teaching them and spending quality time with them, alongside doing things that I wanted to do or felt called to. It is fair to say that the children have missed corporate learning, and although their social lives have been off the charts, the majority of their education has been in the home, one on one with me.

So what was the purpose of these last twelve months? Well, I believe that this year has not been about heart education not head education.

Our homeschool journey has been about heart education not head education

Prior to homeschooling, we were struggling at home. We were still blending as a family of five following our daughter’s adoption and still recovering from my maternal mental health challenges. Last Easter we needed to press the reset button. So we did.

As we took school out of the equation, and put God and family first in our home, we have gotten to know each other again. I believe that we have grown tremendously, in faith and in relationship. As we leaned in, God bound us together and we have now laid the foundations for a stronger family unit going forward.

Since December, God has been challenging me, guiding me and equipping me in so many areas; business, serving, faith and family. I believe that He called me to homeschool to lay down the foundations for our family future. God never said for how long we would homeschool, He just asked us to step out in obedience. We now believe that this season has come to an end and we need to build on what we have started. I am pressing in and listening hard. It feels like I am listening to a new song on the radio and God is tuning the dial so I can hear it clearly. I can hear the melody but now I need to let him refocus me so I can hear the words too.

Can you homeschool? Of course you can. Should you homeschool? Yes, if you feel led to.

I absolutely advocate home education and have seen firsthand how my children have thrived in the home environment. But I have also seen the delight on my children’s faces as they walked into their classroom, watched their eyes widen with excitement about the things they will get to see and do and the friends they get to meet.

So although my heart was a little sad as we waved them off this morning, I also felt incredibly excited for this new chapter of our story – both for them and for me. Here’s to the first entry on the page.

R x

Standard
Faith, Lifestyle

Christians and Climate Change

Yesterday I had the greatest privilege of attending the Live Lent launch at Lambeth Palace. I was invited by The Church of England to learn about the climate crisis and how we can step up to make a change.

As a family we actively work to reduce our waste and recycle wherever possible, but I have never thought about the importance of bringing my faith into the future of our planet.

Faith and our future

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby chaired a panel discussion with Christians who were passionate about sustainable living, serving Jesus and preserving the planet that God has given us. This Lent, he urges the wider church to step up and start fighting against climate change.

The climate crisis

I was humbled and challenged to learn that our world is heading for a three degree climate change by 2050. This rising temperature will lead to heatwave summers as standard, increased flooding due to hotter, humid conditions and catastrophic conditions for millions of people. Those in already warm climates face prolonged extreme weather, which can lead to failed crops, lack of food resources and adversely affect geopolitical systems.

This is more than just being a degree or three hotter, the climate crisis is a global emergency that we must take action on now.

Justin Welby shared how The Church of England will lead the way in the net zero campaign, to end carbon emissions, by reducing carbon emissions across their churches by 100%. He stressed the importance of climate prevention rather than church preservation, and it was encouraging to hear that The Church are tackling the climate crisis head on.

Creation and the Creator

Perhaps one of the messages that struck a chord with me was the passionate speech given by panel member Ali Angus from St Leonard’s, Streatham. She implored is to take our faith into conversation into the climate crisis because loving our neighbours looks like loving the environment they are in.

Loving our neighbour looks like loving the environment

We are made from the earth, formed by a Creator to live in and live off the land. Without the planet, we cannot survive and we need to look after the one we have been given.

After the panel discussion, we had an eventful Eucharist, which, due to a fire alarm, was finalised on the law a of Lambeth Palace. Ruth Valerio spoke warmly of her revelations when writing her book Saying Yes to Life, sharing how in scripture, God is in every single detail of nature, from the birds in the air to the deer crouching down to give birth.

We were challenged that as Christians, maybe we have separated the creation from salvation, yet the Bible is actually a huge nature book. With so many details of creation recorded in scripture, it makes sense that as His children, God would call His sons and daughters to protect it.

What can we do?

This year we will see the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) where decisions will be made for our planet’s future. What we do now as a people will determine the kind of life our children lead, and the kind of world they grow up in.

Now is the time to petition and pray for our politicians. We need ambitious and bold plans from the UK government on climate change. Current plans still lead to a 3.2 degree increase across the world. Aiming to halve this at the very least could help, but will still be disastrous for many.

The only real solution is to end carbon emissions and stop global warming.

This seems like an impossible task but we can all do something.

We can rise up as the Church, with one voice, to pray for our MP’s.

We can implore and encourage our government to bring forward policies on transport, heating, energy and diet.

We can vote with our feet by not using plastics.

We can choose zero carbon travel to reduce our footprint.

We can reduce waste and recycle wherever possible.

We can restrict consumption of animal products.

We can buy ethically sourced and fair trade items.

We can educate our children on the beauty of God’s creation and why we must do everything in our power to protect it. This Lent why not take time to prayerfully consider Gods creation and pledge to make a change? There are some incredible resources available including Live Lent 40 day challenge booklets for adults and children.

We all have different spheres of influence and can each share what we are doing to change the climate crisis. Love is the greatest commandment, so let’s love our selves and our neighbours and the environment we are in, in order to save our precious planet.

Are you in?

R

Standard
Faith

Set your sights in 2020

Sight is a gift. (Ask anyone who doesn’t have theirs and they will tell you so). To be able to see is something that we take for granted every single day. But there is a difference between having sight and seeing.

You have no doubt heard the term 20/20 vision a few times already this year, but do you know what it actually means? It is the term used to describe the clarity or sharpness of vision at 20 feet. If you have 20/20 vision, you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at 20 feet. If you have 20/40 vision then you must be at a distance of 20 feet to see what someone with normal sight can see at 40 feet.

20/20 vision doesn’t equal perfect vision

It doesn’t take into consideration your peripheral sight, depth, ability to focus etc. You can still see without 20/20 vision, but your clarity isn’t as good.

I don’t have 20/20 vision, and I wear glasses every day to improve my sight. But physics sight isn’t the only thing I need improvement on.

Since becoming a Christian, I have wrestled so often with not knowing what’s ahead. As a believer I have given my heart to Jesus but my giving my head is not so easy. I want to trust Him while having complete control over the curveballs heading my way so that I can intercept them and manage them. I want to know where I am headed, so I can find the quickest, most direct route to get there.

But God isn’t in the habit of letting us see the full picture all in one go.

2 Corinthians 5:7 says that we should walk by faith and not by sight.

This has always been real hard for me. I like to be in control, but that is not my job it is God’s. It is therefore unsurprising to me that in my experience, that God has used the unexpected, the unknowns and the uncertainties to draw me closer to Him. More often than I care to admit, I have had to rely on the Holy Spirit showing me what is right and wrong. I have had to talk to Jesus and delve deeper into God’s word than ever before to find insight for the situation ahead.

Do you know that God doesn’t want you to have control?

Yep. That’s right. He doesn’t want you in control of your life anymore than you want your toddler in control of your car. In the wrong hands, a vehicle meant for driving can lead to our death.

God knows the plans He has for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future ~ Jeremiah 29:11

So does all this mean are we supposed to walk blindly? No. We are meant to walk with Jesus. He knows the Father’s heart, and He also knows the trials we face on this earth. Jesus wants to walk with us, to strengthen us and to equip us. He is not just a character in a book; He is the living breathing Son of God, who died for you and me and rose again from the dead.

We are not meant to walk blindly, we are meant to walk with Jesus

I am a recovering control freak. I like to know what’s ahead. I want to see what’s around the corner, but without spiritual insight I may as well be walking around with a blindfold on. Jesus is teaching me to trust Him, to take His hand and let His word illuminate the path. He didn’t say He would give me the road map, but He did promise to shine enough light for me to take the next step.

New Year is the perfect opportunity to change. But in order to see change you need to see things differently. It’s time to set our sights.

Can I encourage you today to get a spiritual sight test. Take off the tinted glasses that the world would give you. See things through the lens of the Holy Spirit and let Jesus be your guide.

R x

Standard
Faith, Parenting

Learning lessons

At first glance this looks like a father and son moment; a lesson in handling a saw and managing a garden. The truth is it is a lesson in handling consequences and managing poor decisions.

Look closer at the picture, do you see the tree on the right? It has a huge branch torn off the trunk because my son swung on it and it ripped the tree.

That wasn’t just a tree, and the damage isn’t just a broken branch. That was my favourite tree, adorned with lanterns and bird feeders. It was special to me because it helped me manage my discontent in living in the city, it brought me such joy to seeing the wild birds hopping around in its branches and it provided shelter as we played in the garden

As a new homeschooler I am trying so hard to cultivate an environment of love and joy both in my garden and in my home, but I rarely seem to succeed of late. We have strong willed children who challenge us often and at the end of the a tough week this broken branch spoke of my broken my heart.

I knew parenting wouldn’t be easier but I never dreamed it would be so hard. I didn’t know how much it could hurt when your flesh and blood acts out. I want to fight for my children, not against them. I often wish I could ‘fix’ them, but perhaps this has more to do with my own iniquities rather than theirs.

I am not just a mom, I am a daughter of the King. And when I feel like I can’t, He can.

God created me to be a mama and He gave me these children to raise. I am going to need to learn some lessons of my own in raising my wildlings.

So today as I gather the remains of my beloved boughs, I gather my thoughts and give them to God. Time to go back to the Source to find our Selah. 

R x

Standard
Faith, Lifestyle

When the waves rise

The skies are clear but my eyes are clouded. A storm rages in my soul. I feel torn in a million different directions, my heart beats I am staring at the waves rising around me and I want to run for high ground.

They say knowledge is power but the more I learn the more I wish I didn’t know. My head is filled with questions and my heart reels.

We are en route to the coast and these few days away with my tribe couldn’t be more timely. I feel like we need time to ponder and pray; to recharge and refocus. At home I am so busy looking at the waves that I forget to look at the One who walks upon them.

When the waves rise, look at the One who walks upon them

Family is everything to me. They are truth, consistency and unconditional love. They are ‘home’. I have craved unity and togetherness my entire life, searched for a place to belong. But the generation that was supposed to nurture and build up chose to tear down and destroy. Those we were supposed to follow didn’t speak love or truth and our hearts were left wanting with unanswered questions.

When it feels like your life is flooded with doubts and disappointment, where does that leave you? With empty hands and a broken heart.

Jesus loves making something out of nothing.

When we have nothing to give Jesus pours in love and peace. When we are hurting He brings healing. He gave the blind sight and He raised the dead to life.

In the beginning the Spirit hovered above the waters waiting to make his move, ready to command the waves to surge and recede.

If, like me, you have unanswered questions, if you feel the storm surrounding you and the waves surging, simply whisper “Spirit lead me”.

Just as the Holy Spirit waited with anticipation when God spoke the world into motion, he is ready and waiting to move today. Let Him still the storm and hold your hand, as you walk on the waters together.

R x

Standard
Faith, Lifestyle

He who holds the stars

Are you a perennial planner? A self confessed striver? Busily plotting your life to the nth degree then panicking when things take a detour? Yup me too.

I like to know where I am headed, what I need to do to get there and how long it will take. But so often this doesn’t take into account God’s opinion on the matter.

Our future is something we obsess over, yet we so easily forget that the One who flung the stars into space has our life in His hands. We hope, but He HOLDS. We try but He TRIUMPHS.

We hope, but He holds. We try but He triumphs.

Funnily enough God has been whispering this into my soul over the last few weeks and months but today at church I felt like He sealed it in for good.

Our current sermon series is all about Peter, and today we looked at the last time he met Jesus after the resurrection. Jesus had told Peter that he would be the rock on which Jesus would build the church, yet Peter had denied Jesus three times. We pick up the story where Jesus is risen, but hasn’t visited the disciples in a while. Peter is sat in his fishing boat, heart heavy and head in hands after a long and unsuccessful night of fishing. He must have been thinking to himself, “What now? I thought I would be a great fisher of men, yet I can’t even catch a fish. I let Jesus down and everyone know it.”

It can be so easy to beat ourselves up when things don’t turn out as we planned. So often we get despondent and downhearted, but this isn’t what Gods wants for us.

There is no point trying to know every turn and plan every step. That is not faith.

There is nothing to gain when we do things in our strength. But God’s gets all the glory when we let Him take over.

We are called to follow Jesus, to watch where he walked and place our feet in those footprints. Why follow Jesus? Because we can trust Him. Our happiness is His priority and He will take excellent care of us.

He who holds the stars will hold our hand. He always has and always will.

So wherever this finds you today, won’t you stop and be still. Stop striving and start living, because Jesus didn’t die so you could find your future. He died so you could find freedom. And that my friend, is a gift that you can enjoy right here, right now.

R x

Standard
Faith, Homeschool, Parenting

The Home School Diaries #3

I got it wrong today. Okay not just today, but spectacularly so on this occasion. This time it was with my middle child, my easiest by far and my least demanding. He is so often overshadowed by his more vocal siblings or overlooked as he is generally happy to go with the flow.

We were doing our daily devotions (yes I know, the irony is not lost on me) and I was asking him to read aloud from his Bible, like I do every morning. He was dragging his feet, messing about and flicking through the pages at a snails pace. My impatience boiled over, my little boy crumpled, his tears tumbled and my heart broke.

I drew him into my arms and said I was sorry. He said he didn’t understand how to find what I had asked him to read and I realised he needed me to explain it better. All too often I expect so much of him as I am busy dealing with his two year old sister (I had already dealt with two potty incidents before I finished reading my devotional page aloud).

I lifted my son onto my lap and I asked if he wanted me to sit with him and talk it through with him. He looked up at me with tearstained cheeks and nodded. We then spent a happy half hour together, my boy snuggled on my lap while I spoke softly and encouraged him. I showed him the different parts of the Bible, how it is made up of the Old and New Testament, and contains 66 books. We looked at the content page and we found today’s scripture together. He read it beautifully and we finished our devotional with smiles on our faces and love in our hearts.

Being a mom of three, I feel constantly pulled in every direction, and never more so than when it comes to teaching my children. They all need different approaches, different atmospheres, different content. But one thing that they all need is love.

The one thing that my children need most is my love

I need to teach them from a place of love, of patience and of acceptance. I am their mom first, educator second. My job is to love the bones off those kids so that they feel safe and cherished, which will empower them to learn. I need to not bark out instructions but learn alongside them.

That is just the way that God works too. He is a loving Father who wants to love the bones off us, if only we will let Him. He doesn’t want us to flail around or panic because we don’t know what to do. He wants us to come to Him and say Papa I don’t understand. Then He can swoop down and scoop us into His arms and talk us through it.

When I experience the love of God it makes it far easier to love in all circumstances.

As they say, every day is a school day, and this new homeschool mama is on a learning journey too.

R x

Standard