And we are in July.

The glorious sunny weather we have been having lately, broke last night when the rain rolled in. I have to admit that I do love these chilly winter mornings, with sunshine during the day. Though there is also something about rain at night that creates calm, and peace. Maybe it’s just me.

Camellia 2

Our winter has been strangely mild this year. Usually by now we have rain day after day, til late september. But so far this season, the rain has been intermittent. Glorious.

I always wait in anticipation for July. I have a Camellia reticulata bush near my front door. Every year in late June, early July the bright, hot pink blooms unfurl. Sometimes they are speckled with white. Sometimes just a brilliant fuschia. It really adds some lovely to grey winter days when I turn into the drive way and see the bush bowing and hovering in the breeze.

This year July also marks 3 months til my wedding. An incredible gift to anticipate in the spring!

God’s creativity and his thoughtfulness is amazing, 🙂

I was taught to think and I do not apologize.

I was taught to think. To question. To not be satisfied with an answer until I have seen all sides and made a decision based on sound research. After years of further study (about 9 years of postgraduate study), it usually comes as second nature. Granted sometimes I’m not thinking straight or my short attention span means I lose interest easily. Someone once said to me “You can tell when you are serious about something, you never let it go, when normally you lose interest quickly.” The problem is I’m also a skeptic. I won’t follow the normal way of thinking. I won’t believe what the media tells me. I won’t accept blind faith without having thought something through. I don’t do subtle. If you want me to get something, be straight with me. I can be logical in the midst of extreme emotion. Long story short, if I believe in something, chances are I have thought it through, researched it, consulted experts, and you probably won’t be able to change my mind. Because I was taught to think.

And I don’t apologize.

 

Just Sayin’.

“To me, a lady …

“To me, a lady is not frilly, flouncy, flippant, frivolous and fluff-brained, but she is gentle. She is gracious. She is godly and she is giving… You and I, if we are women, have the gift of femininity. Very often it is obscured, just as the image of God is obscured in all of us… The more womanly we are, the more manly men will be, and the more God is glorified. As I say to you women, ‘Be women. Be only women. Be real women in obedience to God.'” – Elisabeth Elliot

This is what I strive to be. 

The other side of the storm.

Someone requested recently that I write a post about what happens after a shipwreck, they were encouraged by my ‘In the midst of Shipwrecks’ post. What do you do when your world has fallen apart, you have weathered the rising tides and woken dazed and confused on the shore? So here it is.

I don’t like formulas or ‘steps to success…’ kind of posts. I find them misleading and very unhelpful at times. As a Christian, if I am putting my trust in a checklist to achieve what I need to do, it becomes more about meeting the checkboxes, and less about worshipping God. But before you decry me as completely crazy, I do agree that checklists are helpful- I make lists of things I need to do in a given day. I’m just saying that our health or our wealth or our Christianity shouldn’t come about because we met checkmarks. So while I’m not going to list 10 things to do next, I will say there are 3 things that helped me move forward when I woke up gasping for air on the sand.

Deep breaths, The Word, lots of prayer.

It sounds so simple. But it’s not. Taking those few few faltering breaths can be the hardest things you’ll ever do. But they make it easier to take more breaths, and more…You get the picture. When you pick yourself up off the sand, the storm is over, you are lost and confused, the only thing you can do is breath. You probably have no energy for anything else. A lot of people in the height of grief, or pain go into survival mode. This can involve going through the motions, just doing what needs to be done, even if you have no idea what you are doing. It’s ok. It’s okay to be an empty shell for a while. Sometimes, we need it. We need those moments of clinging to something-anything- to help wake us up to how much we need God.

Obviously I don’t condone using sex, drugs, or excessive alcohol or violence as a way to survive. There is never an excuse for this. But those small things, like spending all day in bed watching TV because our pain is too great we can’t face the world. Or spending the whole day at the beach because we don’t want to come home to an empty house. Spending time with family and friends.These small things are important to our growth, to moving on. And we shouldn’t be afraid to breath.

The other thing I needed, was the Word of God. I found myself writing down hundreds of references about broken hearts, comfort, and other passages that I needed to read as I learned to live with the pain. And every verse, line, word, was what I NEEDED to hear. Granted, not always what I WANTED to hear.
Probably, one verse that gave me the most comfort was Psalm 46:1. God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble.
I memorised This verse, put it on my fridge, my toilet door, my car dashboard, in my wallet. Any time pain welled in me, I would read it. I think I became mildly obsessive compulsive about this verse.

And it sums up what I’m on about. God is our Refuge. We can cling to him, We can rest in Him, we can go to him when all hope of recovery is lost. A refuge is a safe place, a place of shelter and protection. God is our safe place.
When we wake up lost and bruised on the shore, we should go to our safe place. Do whatever it takes to find that refuge.

You might be saying, "That’s all well and good, but not so easy when you have nothing left. When all your energy is spent."
It’s true. It isn’t easy.
but what is the second part of that verse?
God is our Strength.
The God of the universe is offering His strength and his power. With His strength we cannot fail. He has more power and strength than anyone/thing in the universe (including Satan!). Therefore, when we feel like our strength is gone, we should remember, God’s strength is unbreakable. He cannot and will not run out of strength. Humbling, confronting and encouraging all at the same time.
But what is the final part of the verse?
A very present help in trouble.

It’s not saying, He could be available, but will have to check his schedule. It’s not saying He will only help in certain circumstances. It’s not saying, He’s not willing to help unless you help yourself.
It’s saying, He is there. ALL THE TIME. Helping. He is present in the now. In the future, in the past. He is always there, always available for help, always helping even when we don’t ask.
But what is they key to all of this?

‘You’re saying He is a refuge, and he gives us strength, he’s always there. But how do I get this?"

Pray.

Pray for refuge. Pray for Strength. Pray for help. Pray for encouragement. Pray for comfort. Pray through your tears. Pray in the silence. Pray when you have no words to say. Pray when you feel overwhelmed by grief. Pray when you have nothing left to give.

And the verse that I had to repeat to myself a thousand times a day. Whenever I felt like I would crumble. When fears crowded in on me.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging

Verses 2 & 3. He is a refuge, he helps us take the first breaths we need to survive. He helps us take those first few steps towards rebuilding our lives.

And what should we do in return?

Read his word. Pray for his strength. Breath. and have NO FEAR.

Hard to do. Believe me. But you’ll make it. You’ll get to a point where breathing doesn’t hurt. You’ll start smiling, and loving, and getting into life again. And eventually fear will lose it’s grip and you’ll know you made it to the other side of the storm.

Gentleness is powerful too: An Easter reflection.

wax flowersSometimes we associate power with aggression, flashing lights, loud voices, steely gazes. Powerful people seem to have persuasion, charisma, confidence. I don’t have any of those things. Frankly some days I don’t feel like I have much of anything in comparison.

Not a lot is made of Gentleness. In fact sometimes it’s seen as a weakness. Sometimes in a workplace it seems those who are aggressive get the promotion. In the community, those who are violent and aggressive seem to get away with crime. In a school those who are loudest get noticed. In relationships, those who are confident and aggressive get the guy/girl. In churches, those who are talented, charismatic, confident, educated, quasi-perfect get all their prayers answered, the good opportunities to serve, the support when they are unwell etc etc.

We have it so backwards. We think aggression is power.

The bible places great emphasis on Gentleness (you don’t see aggression listed as a fruit of the spirit!). In fact Gentleness is repeated several times. Repetition always means it is important.

Psalm 18:35

English Standard Version (ESV)

35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.

2 Samuel 22:36

English Standard Version (ESV)

36 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your gentleness made me great.

Notice that going into Battle, the thing that made you great, was gentleness, not how many battles you had won, or how many people you had slaughtered. It was gentleness that gave you greatness. Even in the Old Testament, gentleness is revered.

At Easter time, much is made of power. The power of Christ when he rose again. The power of God as He hung there on that tree. All of it is a reflection of His Power.

But I was really struck by Jesus’ gentleness. He wasn’t a pushover. He didn’t end up on the cross because he was too afraid to speak up. He didn’t end up on the cross because he demanded his own way. He didn’t sit around complaining it was unfair. He didn’t allow himself to be a doormat. He went to the cross knowing what it would fulfill. He went to the cross understanding that His father was in control. He went to the cross in love, humbly bowing before God in obedience to His will. He could have made it stop. He could have challenged God, the guards, the authorities. But he didn’t. In fact for an often outspoken person like myself I find myself shaking my head. “Why didn’t you do something to show them who you were? All the power in the universe is yours but you didn’t use it! What were you thinking?”

He was thinking of me. He was thinking of you. He was thinking of His father.

I will probably never die on a cross the way he did. I won’t achieve things that will change humanity the way His death changed us. but I am called to serve. In the small moments of life, when I’m not doing anything outstanding that will be recorded in history books- like doing the dishes- I can be humble. I can have gentleness. I can allow that gentleness to fill my heart, to help me respond to challenges (and people!) with grace, rather than aggression.

What about you? Will you humble yourself and allow gentleness to infuse your life, rather than aggression?

Wingspan is not enough

We will rise up like the eagle.

We will rise up like the eagle.

Apparently the wingspan of a wedge-tailed eagle is 2.3metres. I was a little humbled by that recently when I bought 2 metres of fabric and realised how long that wingspan is. It is one of Australia’s largest birds of prey and I have always loved these birds, along with the American bald eagle. Initially I think it was because of my fascination with American and native American history (we actually studied American history, here in Australia, when I was a kid). I came to the conclusion, when I was 15, that wingspan on the eagle wasn’t enough.

In order to fly, it needed air currents and thermal updrafts to help it stay in the air. In fact, the air was critical to the movement of the bird. I was thinking about it the other day when I read Isaiah 40:30-31. 

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

It’s fascinating when you read about what is actually happening when an eagle is in flight. But i won’t go into too many details except to say that I used to sit  and watch it soar. I remember one of my first visits to the USA, I was feeling homesick and slightly overwhelmed. The knowledge I wouldn’t see my family for over a year was almost too much. I saw an eagle fly into the blue, Colorado sky. It looked effortless, peaceful. But when I read about what happens to the eagle physiologically to help it fly, when I read about currents and wind and air, I was humbled. It was powerful. And it displays God’s power. The bird worked hard to fly, But the World God created for him to fly in, works just as hard to keep it there in the sky.

When I realised this the Isaiah scripture effected me more than ever.

I try to do everything myself. I think of my own abilities and put trust in them that I can do it alone. If the bird tried to fly without air, he’d fall out of the sky, without it there to hold him up. His Wingspan is not enough to keep him there. He needs air. Just as we need God.

The other morning I didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt like I didn’t have the energy to go on. It was all getting too much. Sometimes I feel like my energy is spent and I simply cannot go on anymore, there are so many pressures mounting up, so many things demanding my time. Then I think of the eagle. He doesn’t sit around wondering if he can go on. He doesn’t have a choice.  He’s not wondering if the air is going to hold him up. It just does. Bird and air are synchronous.

But we have choices, unlike the bird.

We can choose to stay in bed and pull the covers back up over our heads. Or we can choose to keep going, trusting that God will be there, so matter how much we feel like we are failing, or falling.

I think that’s partly what Isaiah means. In our weakness, when we are too scared or tired or anxious to fly, he lifts us up, we don’t have to wonder if he will. He does. Always. Like the air holds up the eagle. The God who invented the air is also a God who holds up his people. It’s a powerful picture. God holding up a weak, fallible, fainting people.

Next time you see an eagle, remember that’s God holding him up. And when you are weak, tired, emotional, you will rise up like the eagle.

Singleness and Grace part 3

I used to dread Valentine’s day. Not because I was a ‘down with love’ kind of girl, I wasn’t. There were usually 2 reasons: I found it really superficial, and it would always remind me I was single. I hate superficial things and I hate being reminded of things I can’t change.

Yet, deep down I wanted someone to share the day with. Funny how we can try to ignore something, yet secretly it’s what we really want.

This year, I have someone to share it with. And yet I am reminded of those years I didn’t have anyone. When I would sit alone on my couch and cry with a block of chocolate and a box of tissues. When I started dating a young man (who would later break my heart) I became confronted by a couple of things. The dilemma I mentioned in my last post.

I had spent years searching, waiting, hoping. I was so used to it and used to taking care of me, that I began to see how selfish I had become, when I finally had to share my life with someone else. Prolonged singleness can do that. You get so used to looking after yourself, having things organised the way you want them, making all the decisions that  it can be hard to give it over to someone else. In fact at times, it scared me to tears. I wanted nothing more than to find the man of my dreams. But then I had to SHARE me.

I remember attending a conference on marriage and dating (perhaps more to check out the young men than listen to the talk LOL) and hearing the speaker say “When you are in an intimate relationship with someone, your life is not your own.” I couldn’t think of anything else that scared me more. The fact that if I got married I would no longer be my own, but belong to another. Could I let someone in like that? I wasn’t sure if I could.

Yet, I felt God had paced the desire for marriage in my heart. So to pursue marriage meant confronting my selfishness. It meant getting ready to Share myself. It meant taking the time now, as a single person, to practice sharing (not giving ourselves away prematurely, but serving and loving others in a Godly way). It occurred to me that Singleness was preparation. Not just for marriage. but for all of life. Perhaps you never married, your singleness has prepared you for service to God with all of yourself. Perhaps you were headed to missions. Your singleness has prepared you for service to a world that is also broken and scarred and empty. Perhaps you have gotten married (or are about to) then your singleness is preparation for marriage. And ultimately it prepares us to trust and believe in God and his Word, come what may.

When I realised this, I started to live my singleness with purpose. Not to win a guy, or focus on marriage. but to focus on my growth. To trust God when it was just Me and God. Because I knew, if I couldn’t trust God without a husband, how could I trust him with one?

 

May you be blessed in your preparation. whether for God or a Husband. May you know his hand on your and his grace is sufficient for all those times you feel alone. 🙂