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

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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

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Lifestyle, Parenting

Dear Harry and Meghan

Two days in to being parents, congratulations! The adrenalin is still running, hormones flowing, body aching and heart bursting. You are besotted with your beautiful boy and cannot bear to take your eyes of him for fear of missing something. Netflix has nothing on watching a newborn sleep.

Any parent will tell you that raising children is the most exhilarating and exhausting, beautiful yet bewildering role they have ever had. Being a mother was, and still is, my greatest ambition and my greatest achievement. But it has not been without its challenges, namely around maternal mental health, which was overcome with a lot of love, faith, prayer and communication.

I want to encourage you both that you have a winning formula to start your new role as parents. When we watch you in public, we see warmth, love and respect, a genuine affection for one another that overrides the world around you. This love, this bond is your greatest source of strength as you navigate your new normal.

To any new parents I say this; keep checking in on each other. Sleepless nights can strain solid marriages, teething tests a mother’s bond to breaking point and tantrums can make the most patient parent tear their hair out. These seasons of motherhood are messy and miraculous.

It’s normal to find the days long and the nights longer. It’s natural to go into survival mode as the days blur from one to another in the early weeks and months. My advice to all new parents is to keep looking at one another. Keep locking your gaze and speaking words of love, encouragement and understanding through your eyes in the way that only couples can. Talk often and openly about everything and anything.

Be patient with each other, hold hands, hold your tongue and hold on for the ride. And above all, trust God as you embark on the best role there is.

Enjoy every minute.

R x

Photo Credit: Chris Allerton ©️SussexRoyal
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Faith

Sitting in the Son

Sitting in the Son. Yes the spelling is intentional. Because God knows I need His presence today. I didn’t make it through ten minutes of church because my two year old had other ideas. My ten year olds behaviour has been disgraceful on and off all week. Our belongings are scattered between about sixteen different bags that are rammed into every available space in our car. Tempers are rising as fast as the temperature. It’s safe to say we are ready to go home.

I hate leaving Wales because the mountains and the ocean soothe my soul like nothing else on earth. But I also hate the temporality of holidays, and by the end of the week away I find myself craving the comfort and familiarity of home.

But where is home? It doesn’t feel like Birmingham. With its rising crime and pollution filled air. It doesn’t feel like the hustle and bustle, the traffic, the sirens. But it is where God called us all those years ago. He asked us to serve and serve we have. Through redundancies, depression, anxiety and adoption, we have served. After a much needed year of selah, where we have leaned on God like never before, we are finally steady on our feet. As I start to feel my strength returning and as we get ready to start a new adventure, it should come as no surprise that the devil starts knocking.

You can’t do this. You won’t do this. You are going to fall again. You are going to mess up.

His whispers mix with my thoughts and mess with my mind. But Jesus. Oh Jesus.

When He was nailed to the cross, my fears and failures were nailed with Him. When He rose from the grave victorious, I too rose with Him. He won the battle for my life so I could win the battles in life.

Jesus said I am with you today and always. You are not alone. I’ve got you and we’ve got this. You are loved, you are precious, you are a child of God.

Oh Jesus.

Don’t listen to the lies of the enemy of your soul. He will do everything He possibly can to derail your destiny. Listen to the one who defeated hell and holds the keys to hades in His hands. Listen to the one who loves you so completely and unconditionally, just as you are. His words in the Bible and His actions on the cross shout louder than any of the devils whispers.

Today I am sitting in the Son. Because His presence calms the storm in my heart, soothes the troubles in my mind and restores my soul.

R x

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Faith

No more drama, no more pain

I daren’t rest my fingertips on the keys for fear of what I will type, yet I can do nothing but type for fear that my rising emotions will simply overwhelm me. I find writing cathartic yet insanely frustrating as my head tries to disentangle the jumbled thoughts, words and sentences spilling out of my heart.

Last week I messed up. Yep, the smiley, happy-go-lucky, girl-who-has-got-everything-sorted spat her dummy out and once again engaged her mouth before her brain.  It wasn’t the first, second or even third time, more likely the hundred thousandth since I became a follower of Jesus. Being a Christian doesn’t make you perfect, it doesn’t make you better than anyone else, if anything, the constant pruning and shaping only serves to highlight how very imperfect we are in comparison to a perfect God. Yet all too often my faith is either flung in my face by people thinking that my stance on life is because of a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, or they remind me that I should know better, because, well that’s not a Christian thing to say/do now is it?

No, it wasn’t. Yes, I messed up. Yes, I got angry and frustrated, and rather than bite my lip, my bruised heart screamed that it couldn’t take anymore and I screamed with it. I threw my toys out of the pram, I threw a tantrum that would make most children stop and stare. I sent the words flying through the air like daggers, and then I hung up the phone.

Why? Because hurt people hurt people.

There are no excuses for bad behaviour, Christian or not, and I have wrestled with my conscience and apologised for my outburst. I don’t like drama, other than a Friday night movie with my husband, but somehow drama always seems to find me and after several months of smooth sailing I find myself being battered on the rocks once again.

2016 was a year of soul-searching, stock taking, and stripping back for me, and I am learning more and more about what I need. I have realised that I ache for a simple, inclusive, family focused life, and have strong opinions on how to keep it that way. I long to include, but I won’t waste time trying to accommodate agendas that could jeopardise my walk with Jesus or my fledgling family.

Family is at the core of who I am, being a wife and a mother is undoubtedly the greatest joy I have ever known. A self-confessed optimist and romanticist, I love to love and I long to embrace. But, to quote R’n’B queen Mary J.Blige,  I dream of a day where there is no more drama, no more pain. I desperately want to wash off the words that have stuck like glue, I want to feel accepted despite my belief, not excluded because of it. Rather than celebrate our uniqueness, different paths can create islands separated by oceans of tears. Our strong wills can build impenetrable walls that keep changing tides out and challenging emotions in.

I am all for saying embrace difference, embrace life, embrace love, but sometimes this all-in, exposed and vulnerable love has a cost. Are we willing to pay the price? Sometimes love looks like holding hands into the future, and sometimes it looks like forgiveness and moving on.

No more drama, no more pain.

I daren’t rest my fingertips on the keys for fear of what I will type, yet I know that I can do nothing but type in order to open the floodgates and calm the storm raging inside my heart. So I will write and write, and pour and pour, and cry, and rest, and write some more.

And I know that my God will hear my cries and He will whisper; Don’t worry my girl, I have got this, I have got them and I have got you, and tomorrow is a brand new day.

R

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Faith

God is faithful in our failures

So I am supposed to be working but my heart is so full and my mind is racing after an amazing morning at church. Today I was invited to speak at our church and it gives me such a buzz, I can’t even tell you! As a writer, I know how to write good content, however, when you are writing down words whispered by a Holy God, that is a whole different ball game.

Just to be clear  – I am nothing ‘special’. Okay, I know that is controversial because we are all special and unique in Christ, and we were created by a loving God for a heavenly purpose. But seriously, day-to-day I am just a working mom of two, going about my ordinary everyday life like everyone else. I arrive screech up to the school gates late, sans makeup and hair scraped back in a ponytail, and usher my charges into class before slumping back at the wheel of my car, thinking; did I really go out in public looking like that? I get angry at life and throw tantrums that would make my kids proud when things don’t work out. I am impatient, I jump in with both feet when I should only be dipping my toe in the water, and the proverbial dummy is well and truly spat out when my well laid out plans disintegrate in front of my eyes. I get distracted by things of the world when I should be in devotion to my heavenly Father.

But do you know what? God is faithful even in our failures.

God will use us even when we aren’t at our best, He will be faithful even when we are not. Some of my most profound moments of witness for Jesus have been in most profound moments of pain and pouting. Some of my biggest testimonies have been off the back of my biggest tantrums, some of my most defining hours have followed my most undignifed days.

No one is perfect, least of all me, yet God so graciously pours His love and grace into my soul and whispers His words into my heart. None of us set out to mess up yet we still manage it, but my friend, never doubt that God can use you. Your biggest mess could be the biggest miracle for someone else, as God uses your experience to enable you to help others.

If God can use a murderer like Moses, an adulterer like David and a prostitute like Rahab, then He can sure use you and me to fulfill His purposes on earth and bring glory to His name. The very idea that God would speak to me, and give me a word to share with others astounds me. The fact that He would choose to use my imperfections and idiosyncrasies to illustrate His perfect love and grace is unfathomable. Yet He does so, day after day.

Have you had a tough day?  a tough week? a tough year? Are you circling the same old sins and battling the same old demons? Have you failed to quit something you should never have started or failed to start something you should never have quit? Are you tired of trying and failing?

God is saying; “My child, don’t give up.”

You have not failed, you are not on the scrap heap of life, you are not second best. God keeps no records of wrong and His mercies are new every morning. He has not forgotten you, He is working behind the scenes and He is going to use this trial for your good and His glory.

Keep going.

R

 

 

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Faith, Parenting

Testing the barriers

Parenting.

They say its the most rewarding job of your life. They remind you they don’t stay small forever. They whisper don’t wish the years away because they’ll be gone before you know it.

And yet they don’t tell you that its the most heart wrenching, headache inducing, life changing challenge that you will ever face.

I loved to love when I was a child. An avid stuffed toy collector and baby doll carrier, I would spend hours lavishing love, care and attention on to my little audience, and longed for the day when I could care for a child of my own. Fast forward twenty years or so and there I was in the delivery room, a tired, red faced girl of 26, holding a slippery baby boy who loudly protested his arrival in to the world. As he was placed in my arms it was like my world tilted on its axis. My perspective shifted, my eyes widened and my heart enlarged. This little boy was going to grow to be a great man, and I had been given the immense responsibility of raising him.

As we grew together we faced more than our fair share of challenges, and my fair faced little baby proved to be as strong willed as he was sweet. It seemed the more I lavished him with love the more he would test me and push me, and when his little brother arrived his outrage at sharing his mother was clearly evident. I felt challenged in every way by the torrent that came from my eldest, who obviously felt so unwanted, disregarded or pushed aside in some way despite my constant reassurance. I read book after book, attended multiple classes and sought advice from teachers, and although they gave many welcomed methods and approaches in parenting, my little pocket rocket still challenges me to this day.

Only very recently I listened to a brilliant clip about how to handle teenagers. I have always joked that having had a threenager perhaps I would get away with a well behaved teen, but nevertheless, I  had time to kill while scrolling Facebook one day so I decided to watch the clip. The script went a little something like this:

Raising teenagers is a lot like riding on a rollercoaster. As a rider on a rollercoaster, you can’t wait for the ride to begin, you are excited and nervous all at the same time. As you sit in your seat and the barrier comes down and locks in to place, what is the first thing you do? Test the barrier.

Boom. The answer to my parenting struggles over the past six years right there.

Your child is testing the barrier, the safety mechanism in their lives. They are about to embark on the craziest journey with twists, turn and loop the loops, and they want to know that the barrier isn’t going to fail and release them in to the unknown. And so they push, pull, poke, prod and rattle that barrier until they are satisfied that it is going to hold them in place.

When they test your boundaries and push your buttons,
your child wants to know that he or she is safe.

I know that this isn’t always the case, of course, and there will be many times when they simply want to go against the grain for arguments sake. BUT I urge you, as I urge myself, that when they start pushing, pulling, poking and prodding you, please take a minute to step back and look at your child. Think twice before taking offence, before raising your voice or inflicting punishment, and remember that maybe, just maybe they are pushing back on their safety barrier to check that you won’t move. They need to know that you won’t be shaken by their tantrums, you won’t be pushed over the edge by their whining, you won’t resort to flaring your temper when they flair theirs.

But how can you remain calm in the face of such anger? Because your Heavenly Father can.

He knows what it is like to watch His sons and daughters go against His will for their lives, ignore His advice and choose the guidance of others over His, and all this in spite of the unconditional love He offers out to them over and over and over again. God loves. The Bible says He is love, and we are created in His image, so He knows emotion. God gave us free will so that we could choose to love Him back and not simply be robots programmed to do what He wants. God knows what it is like to be hurt by words that wound, and to see His beloved children make bad decision after bad decision, choosing to go their own way and not the way He had planned. He knows how hard it is when a child just won’t listen, when they answer back or worse, when they choose to ignore.

But God never changes. He never moves an inch, He never compromises on His values or His instruction, on who He is or who He has called His children to be. Yet He loves them completely any way.

And He never stops loving them.

Now age 6 and 3, my boys are growing closer and closer by the day. Their personalities are forming and they make me cry with laughter and burst with pride as I watch them grow in to young men. They continue to challenge me, they can reduce me to tears after a particularly trying day, or they can spontaneously shower me with kisses and cuddles, filling my heart with such joy like I have never known.

Parenting is not easy, it is certainly not for the fainthearted, but it is God breathed and God ordained, and I for one am so blessed to be on this journey.

R x

 

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Faith, Parenting

Learn the unforced rhythm of grace

 

The words appeared to jump off the page straight into my heart. The impact was so physically felt that I had to sit down as I steadied myself for the realisation that I am HIS.

And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters
2 Corinthians 6:18

The truth is identity is something that I have struggled with as long as I can remember. My worth has always been found in my identity, in who I am, in what I do. If I fail at something, no matter how insignificant it may seem to others I take it so personally. I remember as a young girl of no more than 8, failing a spelling test at school. Now when I say failed, I mean I got 9 out of 10 answers right. Now to many this would be an astounding achievement; wow only one incorrect answer? Well done lovely! Yet I sobbed when I closed the door to my bedroom, away from prying eyes. This little girl was heartbroken because she had failed at the one thing that she could control in her life – her intelligence and academic success. She had let herself down, let her family down, those who were looking to her, willing her to do well, expecting her to succeed, relying on her to raise the bar.

And the word I got wrong?

Opportunity.

I can still see it now, written in smudged pencil marks in my spelling book. I had spelled it as oppurtunity not opportunity, and I remember being so distraught that I wrote that word out about a hundred times in the privacy of my bedroom to make sure I would never spell it wrong again.

Why? Because I craved the love and adoration of my parents. I so desperately wanted them to be proud of me, to want me. Because my daddy hadn’t been the man I needed him to be, because my  mom was busy raising two children single-handedly while I tried so hard to be a grown up girl. And grown up girls were good girls. They did their homework, they listened at school and they got good grades. So a bad grade meant I hadn’t lived up to the expectation, no matter how unrealistic that expectation had grown in my little 8 year old head.

24 years later and I still love words of affirmation. I still thrive in situations where I can succeed, where I can do good and where I am needed and noticed. That’s not to say that I do things just to get attention, far from it at times, however my love languages of words of affirmation and physical touch are the very same as that 8 year old girl sat in her bedroom all those years ago.

Perhaps this is why identity is so important to me. To me, what I do affirms who I am, my purpose, my usefulness, and I have spent years chasing dreams and trying to be the best I can be in the many phases of my personal life and professional career.

The truth is that I think that a lot of us are good at a lot of things. I have sought labels and titles, believing that once I achieve a certain position at work, a certain level of responsibility, a certain martial status then I will have ‘made it’. Only problem is that each time I reach the next ‘level’, the goal posts change, and along with it my capacity or my desires. All of a sudden I am not pigeon holed neatly into one box, I seem to fit into three and this does not sit well with my organisational OCD that likes to compartmentalise my life.

My daughter, don’t you know that your identity is not in who you are but in whose you are?

These are the words that caused my world to stop spinning just for a millisecond, as I held my breath, stunned at the truth being spoken into my heart by my Heavenly Father.

I am the Dad he could never be, I am the mother that you missed, I am the parent that holds you close on your darkest day, I never missed a single moment of your life. I was there at every precious milestone, when you first rode a bike, when you won a writing competition at school, I was there when you lost your loved one, I was there when you passed your exams, I was there when he betrayed you in the worst way, I was there when you made the decision to follow Me, I was there when you were baptised in My name, I was there when you married the man I created just for you and I was there when you gave birth to his children.

And I am still here now.

Still watching, still waiting, still listening.

So lean in close and hear my heartbeat.

Floored by the brand new revelation of God’s love for me, He gently told me;

Learn the unforced rhythm of grace. Matthew 11:28 (The Message)

Stop striving, stop searching and simply be. Stop trying to control your circumstances, stop trying to predict the future and stop trying to conceal your past. Stop trying to be all things to everyone, stop trying to fix broken things and embrace their new shape. What if the road ahead doesn’t look how you had envisaged? What if the dream doesn’t come to pass as you had expected? What if the path isn’t clear but is in fact blurry, with the final destination hidden from view?

Learn the unforced rhythm of grace. Learn to abide in Me, learn to trust in My plan for you my daughter. Learn to rest in my arms and enjoy the view. Learn to embrace a love you could never earn.

Because His grace covers every sin, every circumstance, every history and every hurt, every disappointment and every failure. Because it gently guides and never causes guilt. Because His timing is perfect and because you deserve it.

And so today I fall at His feet, fall in love with my Saviour all over again, and thank Him for loving me.

And I start to learn the unforced rhythm of grace in my life.

R

 

 

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