Faith

Give me strength

Have you ever done Strengthsfinder? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it, even if only to use it to justify your individual quirks as qualities to be celebrated. My top five strengths read like this:

  1. Positivity
  2. Empathy
  3. Woo
  4. Achiever
  5. Activator

Sounds okay right? Well at first glance its pretty cool, I have always been a glass full kind of girl, happy-go-lucky, bubbly, and outgoing, so positivity wasn’t a huge surprise. Woo? Well lets face it what woman doesn’t know how to use charm to add gentle persuasion to a conversation. Achiever? Yep, I am the girl with the lists that only feels like she has a productive day if said list has at least three lines crossed through it. Activator? I have two children who are fed, dressed, watered and delivered to school (mostly) on time. Enough said.

But Empathy. Yep, that one smacks me right between the eyes every time.

You see, my other strengths are all forward thinking, go getting, lets-live-life-to-the-full kind of strengths. They require decision, motion, action, all of which my energetic caffeine fuelled self is happy to deliver – after at least one cup of the aforementioned coffee.

But empathy? Well that is an inward feeling, heart sinking, conversation stopping strength. Empathy is feeling another person’s hurt, disappointment, anger and betrayal as if it is your own. It stops you in your tracks and demands you to be still, to look at it, to touch it, to hold it, to feel it.

And some days I wish I didn’t.

Some days I wish I was unable to feel the incredibly cruel twist of fate suffered by my loved ones. Sometime I wish I could not feel the searing pain of a knife going through their back, I wish I could not sense the unbearable weight of grief placed upon their shoulders. Sometimes I wish the tears didn’t fall from my eyes as I watched them welling in the eyes of others. Sometime I wish I could be objective and offer practical solutions rather than stifling my own outrage.

But I can’t. Because that is not how I am wired. And if I couldn’t feel, then I wouldn’t be able to act out of my anger to see justice, I wouldn’t be able to cover the wounds of betrayal with soothing words, I wouldn’t be able to replace the heartache with healing love.

Even Jesus empathised. He wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus, He was moved when He met Jairus who begged Jesus to heal his dying daughter, He sensed the pain of the widow burying her only son.

And because of His empathy, Jesus acted.

Because He was hurting, He brought healing.

We are all given gifts, ‘strengths’ if you will, by God. Some of us are born leaders, able to strategise at the drop of a hat, some can teach, bringing a subject alive like no other, some can host, some can illustrate, some can manage, some can counsel…. the list is endless.

I love that I am positive, I hope that I am fun to be around, that I woo in the nicest way and that I encourage and equip others as well as myself. But I think that these strengths only seek to support my most challenging and yet my most rewarding element; empathy. I can only operate in my strengths because of the strength I find in Jesus, and in Him my positivity will help others to look on the bright side, my woo will persuade them to lift their eyes to the King, and my achiever and activator elements will encourage and equip them on their journey, holding their hand every step of the way.

R x

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Faith

On my knees…

Yes I know it has been a few weeks months since my last post but my heart has been so full I worried that when putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) I might never be able to stop the out pour.

You see, my heart has been broken this year.

2016 did not start the way I expected to say the very least. Christmas came and went as an emotional blur as I was left reeling in the wake of revelations that my parents marriage had broken down. So too were others, who like me, didn’t see this split coming and we were left to pick up the pieces of broken promises and shattered dreams in the aftermath.

Relationship breakdowns hurt. A lot. And perhaps, naively, I never realised the impact of the separation of your parents, especially later in life. My parents had been married 20 years – what a feat in today’s society! Sure, their marriage had its nuances, but they both seemed blissfully happy and we were so proud of all they had achieved.

Then the bombshell came.

What can you say when one party isn’t happy any more? You can not argue with emotions and feelings. You simply have to nod and accept the decision then walk away to process the hurt privately. Having left home at the age of 18 and now being a happily married mom of two, a ‘grown up’ standing on my own two feet, surely the separation of my parents shouldn’t really affect me?

Oh but it did. The hurt, the anguish, the anger and the tears flowed thick and fast, surprising even me. I cried for the pain felt by my parents, I mourned the marriage that was sanctified by God yet had now been disregarded, and I sobbed for the separation already so apparent in our family unit.

I am blessed with an amazing husband who loves me completely, but if it wasn’t for the overwhelming, unshakeable love of God, the closeness of the Holy Spirit and the precious blood of Jesus covering me, I know I would not have been able to walk through the past few months. God has been my strength, my stay, my abba father who has kept my feet on the ground and my eyes looking up.

Humans are marvellous creations, we are created by a loving God to love, yet we are so very capable of inflicting the most terrible pain. It is because of our capacity and willingness to give and receive love, that we experience heartache, betrayal, disappointment and tragedy as such a physical pain. We are created by God who formed us in His own hands and not only knows us, but cares deeply about us. God cares when we are hurting and He wants to share in our suffering so that He can heal the heartache.

My story is still unfolding, I don’t know what the ending will be. But one thing God has prompted me on in all of this, is to get on my knees. To pray without ceasing, to lift up my parents, my sister and our wider family as we sail these stormy seas. I won’t let this family get dragged out in a rip tide, not on my watch, so I will continue to pray that God will restore relationships, heal broken hearts and soothe open wounds. I will keep praying, keep trusting, keep holding on to His anchor in the storm. And while I pray, I feel His love wash over me, His gentle correction as He guides my thoughts and actions and His peace takes up residence within my heart once again.

It is whilst on my knees that I discover who I really am, what I am made of, and more importantly, who He made me to be.

I don’t know if your story is similar, I don’t know if you are experiencing gut wrenching emotions that consume your mind and choke your voice, I don’t know if you lie awake at night wondering how to fix the mess that you find yourself in, or wrestle with anger at the injustice of what has happened. I don’t know if you are angry or afraid for your future, but I do know this; the God of heaven, the King of kings and Lord of lords sees you, He knows you, He loves you and He is fighting on your behalf but He needs you to engage. God has great plans for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, but you need to make the first step towards Him in order to move into victory.

My friend, can I encourage you to join me on my knees, pour out your heart to Him and let Him direct your words and your ways today.

R

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Faith

Should old acquaintance be forgot…

So tomorrow is New Years Eve. When the clock strikes twelve and we ring in 2016, each of us has the chance to start afresh. We can’t wait to recreate ourselves, promising to be better, fitter, or more committed. Just like getting a brand new diary with fresh crisp pages that we cannot wait to fill in with our very best handwriting, we enter the New Year with heady expectation of promise and potential, filled with excitement and awe at the possibilities that 2016 might bring.

But while we are very good at welcoming the future, we are not so competent at forgetting the past.

Should old acquaintance be forgot… the old song sings of forgiveness and forward thinking not bitterness and reminiscing.

2015 has been something of a miraculous year for us personally as God has provided us with our very first home – something that was a physical impossibility for us in the natural but God ordained it and engineered it in the supernatural. My husband and I have grown hugely in our relationship with each other and with God as we have navigated new territory in pastoral care at our church Renewal, and I have been blessed with some of the very best friends that a girl could wish for. They truly are a support network like I have never known and we have shared laughter, tears and tantrums (our children’s!!) over the past 12 months.

However 2015 has also brought private pain, loss that has cut deep in to my heart, rocking my very core as I have questioned my identity and worth while struggling to hold onto things or people that no longer want to hold on to me.

I have had to lay down gifts for a season and pick up new batons, I have had to learn to hold things loosely and understand that God is working through each and every season for a reason.

I have had to accept that I am not in control, nor can I control others, I must leave them in the hands of my heavenly Father who loves them more than I will ever know and sees them in a way that I cannot right now.

So as I sit cross-legged on my sofa, tapping away onto my laptop while my hubby watches Top Gear, I am contemplating tomorrow evening as my little old clock strikes twelve and we commence that age old tradition of singing Auld Lang Syne. Will I truly be able to let go of the old acquaintance of  abandonment? the despair of disappointment? the heartache of not being held? the wonder of what else I could do to make myself more worthy?

Then, once again I am rocked by the revelation that Jesus loves me just as I am.

That I don’t need to do or say anything to make Him love me more than He does right now.

And that the gifts He has placed within me will be grown in due course and give glory to God and God alone in His perfect timing.

I don’t know what you have been through in 2015, nor are facing for your future but I know this: My God has a plan for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.

Because of His love I urge you my friend to take a cup o’ kindness and not bitterness as you raise a glass to toast the New Year.

So why not let this years old acquaintances be truly forgotten and grab hold of the promises of prosperity, of hope, of love and of faith in your future.
R

 

 

 

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Faith

No man is an island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

~ John Dunne

It always amuses me that God likes to speak to me on my morning run. It makes perfect sense when I think about it, as this is probably one of the few times in the day that I am not running around after little people or being distracted by a mountain of housework.

Island NestWhilst I was running I spotted this lovely little moorhen sitting on her nest, right smack bang in the middle of the canal. I was struck by the thought that she obviously thought that this was the safest place for her brood as it was nowhere near the canal walls where predators might sneak up on her, however her location left her terribly exposed and isolated.

That’s exactly what people do every day, God whispered into my heart. My children bear terrible trials, pain, loss and heartache through life, being hurt by others around them, or from predatory people who want to bring them down or abuse them. So, war-torn, and battle-scarred by their previous experiences, my beautiful sons and daughters choose to exclude themselves from everyone, including me, they put barriers around their hearts and moats around their lives so that no one can get in. However, when they do falter, when they are lonely and when they do need help, they are so far removed that no one can or will reach out to them.

My heart pounding, I wondered what on earth I could do to help those who have become an island, who have shut out the world, who have rejected love in favour of battening down the hatches to prevent further heartache. God simply said; Love them.

This extract from the poem by John Dunne beautifully illustrates the words of Jesus, who said that we are the body of Christ and we each have a role and a function to play in the kingdom of God. We were created to be in relationship with one another, to be in a community that shares life events and every day moments, not live out solitary lives.

As Christians we are called to live such a life, and to attract and invite others to be a part of it. The best way to show others that we are followers of Jesus? Put on love. Love others, forgive others and speak well of others. By loving the unlovely, the unloved, the unlovable, we will start to break down barriers and build bridges that will lead them to the one who IS love, God in heaven. He will protect and uphold them like no one else can.

Remember, no man is an island:

“It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.

And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!

Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.

By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

R

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