Fighting Dragons

When you’re little and something scares you, there’s normally a sofa to hide behind or someone to bury your face into so you don’t see it. It’s okay when you’re little, and everyone tells you that the Bogeyman doesn’t exist; that there is nothing hiding in your wardrobe.  I remember my dad checking my room for me after a scary thing on TV.  I remember my mum giving me a big hug after a nightmare and telling me it wasn’t real.

But then you grow up, and you discover that monsters do afterall exist.  That’s when it falls to pieces. Because all of a sudden, you feel totally unprepared for the fight; like you’re facing a dragon with feathers and pillows.

Sometimes it’s not even that you’re scared of what might happen, it’s that you’re scared of what did happen.  You’re terrified of the shadow it casts over you.

Afterall, how can you win in a fight with yourself?

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So I Mustn’t Forget – 5 Autumn moments I cherish.

Autumn days, when the grass is jewelled
And the silk inside a chestnut shell
Jet planes meeting in the air to be refuelled
All these things I love so well

Clouds that look like familiar faces
And a winter’s moon with frosted rings
Smell of bacon as I fasten up my laces
And the song the milkman sings.

Whipped-up spray that is rainbow-scattered
And a swallow curving in the sky
Shoes so comfy though they’re worn out and they’re battered
And the taste of apple pie.

So I mustn’t forget
No, I mustn’t forget
To say a great big thank you
I mustn’t forget.

Estelle White

I love singing this song with my class at school. It captures a childhood of wading through a sea of crispy leaves in wellies, carrying a few new library books under my arm. I carries a reminder to be grateful for the everyday moments that are tiny pockets of beauty amongst the rush and bustle of a new school year.   Here are 5 of my Autumn moments:

Number One ~ The raindrops singing a lullaby when I’m all cosy in bed.

Number Two ~ Apple and cinnamon bagels topped with Biscoff spread.

Number Three ~The way my dressing gown feels when I put it on straight out of the tumble dryer.

Number Four ~ Curling up with a mug of tea and a blanket.

Number Five ~ Homemade soup and bread.

What are yours?

Renewing Your Mind

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A lush canopy lazed over the undergrowth of the jungle floor and the river that had snaked its way through the thick plantation. Nested near the core of the jungle was a village; a small cluster of huts that rested a mile or so from the water.  In a time beyond living memory, the people had forced their way through the jungle to the river and the path was well worn from travelling each day to gather water.  

The path led to a sandbank in the curve of the river, from which it was possible to scoop water into buckets with relative ease. Unfortunately, sandbanks are also a favoured spot for the crocodiles that call the river their home and so it was that every so often, a villager was welcomed with open jaws.  The people knew they had little choice.  After all, they cried, we must drink.

Now it came to be, that one day, a villager fought his way through the jungle to a spot upstream from the sandbank.  There, the land was a few yards above the river with a sturdy rock that overhung.  Excited, the man battled his way back to the village and took his wife to see what he had found.  Eagerly, they lowered a bucket on a rope and filled it with water.  They were delighted when the water seemed even cleaner than before and rushed home to tell everybody.  

Some of the villagers scorned the couple.  They refused to consider that a blocked way could offer a better option than the familiar path to their water source.  But some, particularly those who had lost loved ones to the crocodiles, listened with hopeful hearts and so they picked up tools and began to cut a path through the jungle.  It was hard work, and some villagers gave up and went back to using the existing path. However, after what felt like an age, a way was cleared and the people began to turn to the rock to draw their water.  Eventually, they were all persuaded and began to use the new route through the dense trees.

Over time, the new way became wider and well-worn from the villagers’ faithful footsteps.  Plants stole the old path little by little and claimed it as their own, until it only existed in days long forgotten.  So it was that the villagers were able to quench their thirst without fear.

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Romans 12:2

Tranformation is not always the easy option, sometimes it takes sacrifice and often it takes time.  When you make a choice to think differently about yourself or a situation, don’t be disheartened if you find yourself slipping back into the ‘old way’ of thinking at times.  Give it commitment, but give it time too.

Why I Write

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So the lovely Tania invited me to a blog hop, where people share a little about why they write.  She is a fantastic woman with a great ministry and I would encourage you to take a look at her blog.

In the name of honesty, I should say that I nearly said no to this after reading the questions because I didn’t have a foggiest how I would answer them.  But then, I thought that I probably should have a foggiest.  So here we are, challenge invitation accepted.

 

What am I writing / working on right now?

I don’t see writing as work at the moment.  After a degree in Creative Writing, where believe me writing was work – hard work at times, it feels somewhat luxurious to return to writing for leisure. At the moment, my writing life is fairly eclectic. I’m writing this blog; journalling my thoughts on various things; writing some fiction and poetry and of course I also scribe a lot of letters to Monty (a monster that lives in the school I teach in) for my children.

They say you can only write what you know, but actually I find it fascinating to write about what I don’t know – or at least, what I want to know more of.  Next week, I’m going on an introductory course to Biblical care and counselling and I’m really hoping that I can use my reflections to spark a mini-series of practical studies.

How does my work differ from others of it’s genre?

I don’t like this question, possibly because my writing is not all that different from what others write. But then, I don’t write to be different.

I suppose, if anything, it varies in that I don’t have a particular genre. Why spend your time trying to climb out of a box, when you can simply choose never to put yourself in one?

Why do I write what I write?

With this blog, I write it because a friend of mine said that gifts were intended to be shared and she wanted to enjoy mine.

Often, I write because it helps me to clarify my thoughts and feelings. Words are a creative outlet.

But most of the time, I write because I  really love words.  Books were my first love, before even writing.  Words are so precious and can be put together in such beautiful ways.  I write because I love reading the words of others, and because I hope that some people enjoy reading mine.  Sometimes, when I journal for example, my only audience is God but that in itself is such a privilege.

How does my writing process work?

I find the quality of my writing is much better if I write when I want to, or when I feel prompted to.  With this blog, it tends to be that God sparks a thought or puts something on my heart which I then ponder on for a good while before attempting to put it into words to share it with others.

I always have my journal in my bag and thoughts tend to get scribbled down in a rush, then I wait until I have an evening free (this part often takes a while) and write it up in a style that is hopefully a bit more coherent.  Writing tends to make me quite emotional, but not in a bad way, so I have to be in the right mood.  Or is it that when I’m in that sort of mood, I have to write?  Either way, it works for me.

Extending an invitation:

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I would like to introduce you to my very awesome friend Alice Radwell.  She blogs, and is also employed as a Ghost Writer. I absolutely love both her and her words and thoroughly recommend that you check her writing out.

 

 

Hop on bloggers, hop on.

 

 

Broken and Beautiful

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Have you ever thought about stained glass windows?  Each piece is fractured, sometimes they are even quite roughly cut with bits chipped off.  A higgledy piggledy spectrum of colour, size and shapes. Yet together, they are beautiful.  Together, they tell a story and the light shines through.

When you’re feeling broken; bashed about; mismatched; remember those fragments of glass.  Remember that the creator of the window chose each of them and placed them carefully where they would best help build the picture.

Remember that you are chosen; that you are beautiful; that you are where you need to be.  Remember that the light shines through you.

You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. – Matthew 5:14

 

I have a dream

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Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve gone a bit Pinterest crazy! What began as a sort of mood board for decorating my new home turned into a full-on scrapbook of my interests, personality, work and hobbies. One of the more beautiful things I came across was this quote:

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

– Vincent Van Gogh

 

Isn’t that delicious?

I’ve been thinking about dreaming today, and the best kind is the sort you do when you’re awake. We had a meeting at church about our search for a new senior Pastor and so we were discussing what everyone saw as our church’s strengths, areas to review, gaps and obstacles.  I really enjoyed mulling this over with people, I love to reflect on things and I really appreciate that we can do it in a non-aggressive, healthy way as a church. We began to talk about dreams, and watched the amazing clip of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous 1963 speech:

When I listen to it, my heart beats faster and frankly, I want to jump up and shout “AMEN BROTHER!” but sadly, I don’t think I can pull that kind of move off.  His words resonate with me.  What he is saying is truth, but it’s more than that.  His passion, his commitment, his pure, uncontainable dream is articulated beautifully by his so human words.

According to Pinterest, I have the same personality type as Pocahontas:

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Which means, I will now start singing Disney songs like this one:

I’m not even joking! Sorry in advance if I perforate your ear drums. Sadly, the singing voice doesn’t come as a package deal with personality type.  INFP – we’re called the Healer, or sometimes simply the Idealist.  I love to dream impractical things, I love to imagine improbable conclusions and I love to hope.

Something started to stir in me at the end of this meeting, something new.  Something exciting but also a bit terrifying.  When we were talking about gaps in our church, a few of us mentioned a mentoring program.  If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’ll know that I’d love a mentor.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Titus 2:4-5

 

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

There’s always someone who can disciple us, and there’s always someone we can disciple. I have an amazing peer group at church, many of my friends are spiritually mature and I look to them for advice, but sometimes it takes somebody a little bit older and further on in their Christian journey to ask the challenging questions and encourage spiritual growth. Talking with my church family made me realise I wasn’t the only one who felt the need for a mentor.  One of the things I’m finding hard at the moment is how to go about finding one in a wise way.  I mean, it’s not entirely socially acceptable to dance up to a random woman after the service and say “hey, wanna mentor me?” is it?

At the end of the meeting, we began to pray for God to open us up to how we could be part of the answer to the ‘gaps’ or areas to review in our church life. That’s when it started, the slightly uncomfortable prodding and the tingling toes.

No, not pins and needles.

I feel like maybe God wants me to be part of setting up a mentoring program at church. EXCITING! But also a bit terrifying for me.  I’m really more of a behind-the-scenes kind of girl.

I have a dream.  I’m poking at it for a while to see if it truly is from God.  It makes my heart beat fast, and I believe in it. I’m passionate about it. I’m uncertain if it’s practical and parts of it scare me.

“But to be safe we lose the chance of ever knowing what’s around the riverbend”.

I have a dream, quite a few as a matter of fact.

 

What’s yours?

 

 

Something Old and Something New

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See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

 

Isaiah 43:19

 

Last month I had the absolute privilege of helping to baptise my beautiful friend.  It was a day which can only be described as a joy overload and I love the new beginning that baptism symbolises.  I had been thinking about my own baptism and the testimony that I stumbled my way through (I’m not overly fond of stages, particularly ones that face 500 people). I remember my heart pounding, not being able to wipe the smile off my face and water dripping down my back from my wet ponytail.

I became a Christian at University.  Not through the CU, but through my friends who were unendingly loving with me as I started to find my way.  Although my mum took my sister and I to church until I was about 10 years old, I didn’t remember much other than fuzzy felt, playing Mary in the nativity and eating grapes for communion.  Being a Christian was a completely new experience for me and I loved my growing relationship with God.  At the time, I felt like it couldn’t get any better.  It felt like I had been climbing a mountain called Faith and I was finally stood at the highest point.  That was over 4 years ago now, and I can honestly say that although that was an emotional high point, I was jumping in puddles when God was offering the sea.

God didn’t stop doing new things in my live when I became a Christian, or when I got baptised, or when I became a church member, or when I started leading different things at church. He’s constantly restoring parts of my life I wasn’t even aware existed and healing hurts I buried years ago.  As I grow more in my relationship with God, I realise how much more I have to learn and how much more I want to know him.  I can always go deeper, because God is limitless.  There’s always something new.

Something new was the topic of the sermon at my friend’s baptismal service.  My pastor mentioned that I had popped into his head a few times when he was writing it and wondered whether God wanted to speak to me through what he was going to say. He joked about it perhaps being a call to ministry (I speedily informed him of that dislike of stages I mentioned earlier).  For the last few weeks, I’ve been asking God what the next new thing he wants to do with me or in me is.  I’m buying a flat, new opportunities to grow in hospitality? I’m doing a biblical counselling course this summer.  A new career? I broke up with my boyfriend, a new start perhaps? God really worked on my insight of him as a loving Father recently- a new understanding?  I’ve been thinking of looking for a Christian mentor, is it a new relationship? All of the above? Something completely unexpected? To be honest, I don’t have an answer.  I sense the truth that there is something new for me, but I don’t know what it is.

God knows.  No, I mean literally – he knows.

But isn’t it wonderful that we can expect new things?  Whenever someone mentions ‘ testimony’, I tend to think about how I became a Christian, but actually I constantly have new testimonies.  God has done amazing things in my past, but he’s doing incredible things in my present too.  God stays the same, but my understanding and relationship with him is constantly evolving and moving ( hopefully mostly forwards!). There’s always something new.

More than a conqueror

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No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39

There’s a dizzy tingling of the fingertips and a weightless hope that comes before choosing a path. For me, it’s often accompanied by a solemn breathlessness, like my soul can’t draw breath until I decide which direction to move in. I suppose you could call it anticipation. There has been so much change this year, there is so much change happening right now, and more is forecast. All around me, I can feel situations and people shifting fluidly as they weave in and out. Bit by bit, little by little, they stitch more of their story. My heart is calm, quietly asking questions of me as it tries to determine my next steps. It’s time for something new; this much I know for certain.

Today I was painting, and trying to listen to God’s voice for a particular situation. I got a bit lost in the moment and suddenly found myself musing over one of my pictures instead. It was of a person standing at a fork in the path. One route carried on along the flat terrain whilst the other twisted violently up a mountain. I wistfully considered the latter. It was certainly a more difficult road, with no guarantee of what would be on the other side. That’s the thing with new opportunities, you can never be sure where you’ll end up.

But imagine that view.

And in that moment, my heart was won over by the gentle touch of God’s Spirit. I was instantly persuaded, sold out utterly. I knew God wouldn’t force me to choose the more challenging path, but I also knew that if I did, he would use it to teach me and grow me.

So often I let fear cloud my judgement of situations and opportunities. I hate to fail, and so sometimes I’m scared to try. There’s a resilient hope that surges alongside anticipation, and today I find myself battling to reach it through my doubts. No one ever changed without challenge, and why should I be afraid? I am more than a conqueror, and God is for me and with me.

Yes I can climb the mountain. Yes I can trust that the other side will be worth it. But even if it isn’t, I can have absolute faith that God will be working with me in my journey.

Everlasting

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Everlasting God,

Your hands tell a story. What do they smell of?
Stardust, from creating the galaxies?
Perfume, from crafting each flower?
Salt, from spilling the sea?

Your feet tell a story.  What do they look like?
Dusty, from treading the path of men?
Glistening, from walking on water?
Scarred, from the cruel nail forced through them?

Your arms tell a story. What do they feel like?
Strong, from carrying me?
Firm, from guiding me?
Tender, from comforting me?

You tell a story. What is it?
Your story is power and majesty,
Wind tossed oceans and bursting volcanoes.
Your story is gentle and sweet,
Fragile wings and fluttering eyelashes.

Your story is love,
Love ultimate and unending.


There is a rhythm to our everlasting God, to the God everlasting.  There is a rhythm and it is the heartbeat of all the universe. He is steady, constant and unchanging.  In our chaotic existence, he is consistent in his love. 

Lord, my God. God, my Lord. When I feel undone, when my heart aches and my head spins, you are my harbour; my refuge; my fortress.

I will trust in you.  In you, I will trust.

Always.