Christmas is a time for memories. I have all the Christmas memories stored up from the past 36 Years. It’s not always the things that we think are so important that we remember years later is it? A funny thing is I don’t remember all the presents and stuff I got even though I find myself stressing about buying the perfect gifts for people. Of course, some memories are so special and they capture precious loved ones who are no longer here. So they are bittersweet. Joy with the sting of tears.
I want to create the happiest of Christmas memories for me and my family. The ‘putting up the tree day’ is one I want to make perfect. No arguing, no stress. I want smiling children singing Christmas carols on the way to pick their new decorations. I want my husband to take my hand and to want to sing along with a Christmas jumper on. I want the most beautiful, perfectly straight tree with no baldly bits and no needles dropping. I want no bickering or controlling people when putting on the baubles and lights. I want the lights to work. I want to be able to find all my decorations and none to be broken. I want no vomiting children.
So let me tell you about last weekend; my perfect ‘tree putting up day’. It involved a trip to the garden centre singing Christmas songs - tick - (I may have forced my kids to sing loud in car by telling them if they didn’t sing I wouldn’t get them a decoration or a dominos pizza.) Only a slight argument arose when two of my boys wanted to pick the same decoration. This happens every year. Back to the house where Ryan couldn’t find the decoration box. I tried so hard not to blame him as he was the one who last touched it (I don’t go in the attic) but i did a little bit of blaming and sulking. Only shed a few tears as I thought he had chucked the box out inadvertently. I almost spiralled downwards. It contained a few decorations from my childhood- memories of times gone by I wanted to hold onto. This is when God whispered to me - that box is not what Christmas is all about.
Then we went to buy more lights—back on track and happy again and bingo a found box of missing decorations. Tick. Tree decorated albeit a few hours later than expected. Dominos pizza consumed, lovely Christmas movie on. Tick. That was all the bits within my control. Then the tummy aches began. Zac and Ethan were lying on the floor holding there stomachs. This was not in my ‘putting up the tree day’ perfect plan. Then the vomiting started. I’ve cleaned up a lot of vomit but this night was a whole new level. Up half the night cleaning children, mattresses, and walls . Musical beds ensued, 2:00am showers, boil washes and bleach. Pillows and pyjamas chucked in the bin.
This was out with my control. I couldn’t stop the vomiting children and my perfect evening was over. The memory would be ruined, but you know what? God was there. He was there amongst it all whispering to me that I don’t meet God in my memories I meet him in the present and as precious as they are I firmly believe the best is yet to come. And Christmas isn’t about things it’s about Jesus, my saviour, humbling himself and coming to earth as a helpless little baby. Gurgling and wriggling, the creator of all reduced himself to the smallest and most helpless of beings. He really did become Emmanuel; God with us. And that first Christmas was perfect but it wasn’t. You know what I mean? I think of a 15 year old Mary and the controlling part of my brain kicks in and as a mother I would have wanted the perfect night for Jesus to be born. (She would have had a water birth with candles and whale music) I would have wanted to create the perfect environment for such a special birth so I could tell him about it. But there was no room for him. There was no cot, he wasn’t born in a beautiful place. There were animals and smells and yet it was perfect wasn’t it? Our Lords birth was perfect. In amongst the chaos was the beauty of it. Light breaking through in the darkness. And because of this incarnation I can be sure Jesus totally gets the vomit thing. He’s literally been here. He understands. And I praise him because in amongst the chaos I choose to cling onto the precious moments of which there were and will be many. I will treasure them in my heart. And I will teach my children about the baby who is my king who was rejected by many but was actually perfect.
And I will teach them that even when things go wrong there is still beauty. And even when we lose something precious or we are a bit broken it’s still ok. We are still invited to join in the celebrations anyway. He loves us despite it all. And so I ask myself, “Why the big reaction? Why was I so desperate for my decorations not to be lost or broken? Why the striving for perfection? “ I realised that’s what I want for my kids. For them to be able to find all their memories and none to be broken. I want them to never get lost but the truth is at some point we all lose our way and we are all a little broken. We all find ourselves walking in darkness. But that’s why he came. He knew this was the case. He came to rescue us and there will come a time we all need to let go of our pride and admit we need a saviour. We need a light in our darkness. And we can’t save ourselves and I realised I can’t save my kids. We all need to make the choice to come to the manger and bow down.
So this Christmas in amongst the chaos and the non perfect bits remember that there is light in the darkness. Remember Jesus’ birth and the unlikely imperfect bits that we now remember as precious. He’s in it all if we let him be. Let’s ask him to be our light this Christmas and when things don’t go to plan let’s remember the whole reason why we celebrate and laugh anyway. Choosing joy this Christmas. And let’s not get too busy creating the perfect Christmas that we forget to kneel down before the manger and just adore him.
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2
Tonight Lyndsey and I (Frankie), wanted to share our reflections on the Illuminate 2018 conference which we attended in Northern Ireland along with 13 other wonderful ladies from Falkirk Vineyard. Below are our stories and we hope they serve as a source encouragement to you!
After a mild crisis of confidence regarding my Air BnB booking skills, I arrived on Northern Irish soil excited and expectant about how God would use the weekend at Illuminate 2018. Following a profound year of stretching, growth and healing I was ready for whatever God had for me. I knew right from the Friday night, I was different this year. I was receiving out of a place of wholeness and dependency like never before. And this year was all about stories and I embraced every moment of the privilege of getting to partner with people as they told their raw and honest stories of how God had showed up in the middle of unimaginable pain.
On Sunday morning I had some time to spare so I went to see the bottom of the garden at the beautiful mill house where we stayed. It wasn’t the easiest journey- it was slippy, wet from rain and the little path badly over grown. I found a long forgotten summer house, caught a sight of the big old chimney of the abandoned mill, found a wee muddy pond and right at the bottom; a fiercely flowing river. The fallen autumn leaves were all around me as I stopped and savoured the beautiful moment of calm. I prayed out loud, thanking God for such a blessed weekend and accepting what I knew he was telling me; a new story is beginning.
All I sense so far is that this is a story where I step up, I step out and get brave. I sense an adventure of an increase in dependency, peace and practical learning awaits me. I am embracing the words spoken over me this weekend by a brave young women who called out what she felt God was saying to me; that my hands will be a doer of great works for God. Yes and Amen God; I am ready! I am ready to be shown what God wants to show me; a new love. A love that goes beyond the current boundaries of my heart and experience to love more wholly the people I encounter every day, the place I call home and all the experiences yet to come. I’m healed but I’m still healing. I’m planted but I’m still growing. My compass is set and I’m on my way!
“Arise, my dearest, Hurry, my darling. Come away with me! I have come as you have asked to draw you to my heart and lead you out. For now is the time, my beautiful one. The season has changed; the bondage of your barren winter has ended, and the season of hiding is over and gone. The rains have soaked the earth and left it bright with blossoming flowers. The season for singing and pruning the vines has arrived. I hear the cooing of doves in our land, filling the air with songs to awaken you and guide you forth. Can you not discern this new day of destiny breaking forth around you? The early signs of my purpose and plans are bursting forth. The budding vines of new life are now blooming everywhere. The fragrance of their flowers whispers “There is change in the air.” Arise, my love, my beautiful companion, and run with me to a higher place. For now is the time to come away with me.” Song of Songs 2:2-15, TPT.
As we approached our weekend away to illuminate 2018, the only word I can use to describe how I was feeling is overwhelmed. I would like to say excited or expectant but the reality is the past few months have been difficult. If you have had a conversation with me recently you may have heard me say 'I'm busy' or 'just tired' but as I have said to those close to me, I feel I had lost my joy. So as the weekend drew closer, I was looking forward to a good nights sleep and I was desperately praying that God would intervene and I would begin to feel a little more 'normal', well normal for me anyway!
Even after years of being in a relationship with God, I am still blown away when He speaks to me in such a direct and loving way. From the stories shared on Friday night right through until Sunday morning, God used different ways to break me down, open my eyes and heart, set my compass and lovingly tell me to start walking forward again. You see somewhere along the way, I had lost my joy because I had lost my purpose. My compass was no longer facing North towards my Father. In truth my compass was irrationally spinning in any direction, my mind was foggy and I couldn't focus because I wasn't even looking for North. In the midst of being busy I had become distracted by responsibilities, work, family, chores, perfection, striving, comparison and dissatisfaction and so many other things and I was forgetting to reset my compass.
As God reached out to me, I found that I was hurting over things I thought I had long before dealt with, I was over those hurts and my past... or was I? But as Janet Young shared on Friday night, we are healed and still healing. Oh what glorious words! From there we heard Tre share about how it's ok to be under the broom tree, and God our Father will let us rest and then bake us a cake (bonus, right!) but at some point when we have rested and eaten we have to come back out; we can't stay under the tree! And then finally on Saturday night Tori said it really is a matter of constantly resetting our compass to North, we have many things that we will let draw our attention and suddenly we are not walking North anymore, but we must reset and keep going.
I cannot explain at what point things changed for me this weekend but I have returned home feeling lighter, my heart feeling joyful and remembering to always set my compass North. So let me ask you a few questions tonight:
How are you doing really?
Is your compass set on North?
Do you need to come under the broom tree?
Is it time to come out from under the broom tree?
Is it time to go, step forward, if your compass is set?
We are all at different points in this journey but I encourage you to be vulnerable with one another so we can move forward, North, towards our Father!
“Give me Your lantern and compass.
Give me a map so I may find my way...
to the place of your presence.” Psalm 43:3-4
I’m Fee, and I LOVE an analogy. Those of you who are Greenpark oldies might remember my baptism testimony where I used the analogy of surfing to describe my journey with God. Recently God has been teaching me about endurance, both physically and spiritually. For those that don't know me, I am slightly obsessed with running. I started running in March and could barely run the length of myself, and now I've well and truly caught the bug! I find it hard to have a conversation now without mentioning it (sorry!). God has been so gracious in giving me this outlet, it is not just my therapy, I am also amazed how he uses it to speak to me.
Hebrews 12:1 says “...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with endurance the race marked out for us”
Running a race takes training, you can't be unprepared, do no training, and expect the race to go perfectly. I put a lot of effort into training, I try to eat the right things and I work on my strength and endurance so that I can do the best I can on race day. But am I as prepared for the “race” that God has set out for me? Do I prepare myself enough, read my bible for guidance, and for spiritual food? I’m not sure I put as much effort into my “spiritual training” as I do my running! Studying the bible, praying, listening to talks/sermons, small groups etc are all ways to “train” and increase those muscles of faith! And like training for any sport, only doing one type of training will leave you lacking, it's important to get your training from a wide range of sources.
Easy runs are great, they build your confidence and feel great, but it's the difficult ones that really build your endurance. I have learnt recently that it doesn't matter how well you prepare and how many miles you log, races will not always go well. How true is that of life? You feel like you’ve done all the right things, taken what you thought was the right path and somehow you find yourself lost and wonder how on earth you got there. But God is so gracious, he often uses our struggles even more than our successes. In order to build strength, you're actually causing micro tears in the muscle (sounds pretty painful right?) but your body repairs this and makes it stronger! Sometimes you can feel like you're being torn down, but God will repair you and make you stronger. This healing can take time, be patient, it will build your endurance for future troubles. After all we are frequently reminded in the bible that we will not get an easy ride!
You can't run this race on your own strength, you need your support guy. God gives you the energy you need. He runs with you, and like any good coach, he has the best advice! We also have an amazing reward at the end of this race, better than any fancy medal, t-shirt or free banana! Listening to Andrew Yule's talk a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by the words “if it is not good, it's not the end”. We can take so much comfort in that no matter how hard the race that is life, the end is good! I've heard there's lots of feasting too and who doesn't love a good post-race feast? So whatever your race looks like, train well, rely on your coach, endure the injuries. Remember the finish line and look forward to the post race party!
I’ve never really written a blog before, in fact I’ve never even written notes when asked to speak; so this is very different for me. I came to know Jesus personally when I was 18 years old. I never meant to give my life or say the prayer! I had said yes without realising what the person had actually asked me. To cut a long story short I asked God to prove to me that he was real, and I gave him a year to do that.
Well that obnoxious prayer was the best thing that I have ever done as He has been the best decision I have ever made and would never change. I love reading my bible, books, scribbling notes, listening to various sermons etc but what has changed my life the most and kept me close in my walk is my prayer life. The church that I was brought into held it very important to the Christian walk, like the air you breathe and to be honest, it is lifeblood to the struggling or the bold.
Prayer to me comes easy, it is just talking to my father, who loves me, cares for me and has my back. How could I not speak to him? I think people struggle with prayer because they complicate it, it really does not matter if you stumble or weep over your words or even if you feel stupid. When my son was young and learning to speak, he would miss the start and end of some words. It was nonsense to others but I always knew what he had said when he spoke to me; his mother. I would often repeat what he had said correctly back to him, I don’t think he even noticed as he probably thought, “yes that’s what I just said”. When you understand that that is exactly how God approaches us; how can you not speak (pray)? When, like a parent, He loves to hear his child’s voice. Thanking him, praising Him or really just really opening up and just saying “I’m really struggling right now, I can’t do this anymore, this hurts; please help.”
Prayer opens doors, the first door is getting it off your chest and you open yourself up to the fact that we can’t manage on our own strength! We need “Our Father.” Funny that that was exactly what Jesus taught us to say, to start right there. He is “our”, my, personal; mine. Just like our child knows we are theirs so we should know, God is ours! We are his and He loves to hear our voice.
Prayer opens many doors, sometime we just need to ask once, sometimes we have to be like the nagging widow; there are no set rules! We should pray in every season- when we have a lot to be thankful for or even when you have nothing to give. The best prayers can come from a place of nothing! I pray when I’m driving, when I’m cleaning the house or doing the gardening, my favourite is to walk around the house praying then there comes that moment when you know; it’s done- it’s hit the mark and there is a peace, a stillness a quietness of spirit draws close.
I don’t believe that prayer is just for a few; I believe we are all called to pray and it is our duty. I know myself when struggling how reassuring it is to know that people are covering us with their prayers in time of great need. In those places when you can do nothing and all strength is gone- you are being held by the prayers of the saints (and that’s you by the way- his people are his saints!) Many a time it has been a relief to know people are praying into whatever situation I am facing. Yes, prayer works. Yes, it changes everything- including ourselves! No one is perfect. No one is better than anyone else-, the more you pray, the more confident you’ll become! Remember- you are praying to the one who loves you the most. The one who does not mock, but waits patiently. He will always be your loving Father.
Ladies, you're invited to our bible journaling event, 10am on the 27th of October at Camelon Community Centre! Bible journaling is a creative approach to exploring God’s word and many people find it a helpful approach to help them to explore, remember and apply scripture to their daily life.
This event is for everyone - seasoned artist or nervous novice! If you have a journaling bible, please bring it along, but if you don’t it won’t matter at all! All materials will be provided so don’t worry about bringing art supplies as we have plenty to go round. Throughout the morning there will be examples of how women in our own church have grown their understanding of the bible through journaling and also plenty of time for us to be creative.
There will be tea, coffee, pastries and chat for us to enjoy while we create. The event costs £2.50 and that will be payable on the day. Any questions feel free to get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh ladies it's that time again... the ladies ministry calendar has kicked off with our fantastic girls night in last night; and what a night it was! And tonight; we are back on our blog too- woohoo! This year we already have some of our lovely ladies lined up to share what's on their heart and we cannot wait!
As we kick off this week, I am reminded of how amazingly well last year went and have looked back with joy and astonishment at our successes. From the first blog, we hit the ground running and on average we were reaching on average 150-170 readers, with our top number being 250 and the last 6 months we had 1500 readers. I mean what?!
While reminiscing I was able to cast my mind back to when the idea of the blog was birthed. At the time, I was just so inspired by the ladies surrounding me in small group. We had had a beautiful morning in small group that day, sharing our stories of hardship and things we had learned. As I sat and listened to the women in the room, I found myself being humbled and honoured to have each and every one in my life and what a privilege it was to call them my friends, but more than that I thought how much we can learn for each other. I love listening to or reading stories from our more famous ladies in ministry but I was equally inspired and encouraged by those close to me and I wanted everyone in our church to know; we are in this together. It's not just those writing books and standing on stages who have been strong in faith and learnt lessons while walking their journey, it is every women in our church. And so the idea of the blog was born, a place where we can all share what we have learnt, where we are at or where we have come from in order to encourage those around us.
Not long after, I was meeting with our pastor Lorraine, We talked about the things that I would love to do that year in ladies ministry and then she asked me to dream big for the ministry and what that would look like. The blog was one of the 'big' ideas but Lorraine said, why not now? The answer... I don't know why, it just seemed a little new or a little big for me. So we aimed to get it off the ground in the next few months. We started after summer in 2017 and it has gone from strength to strength. We have seen ladies encouraged, lifted up, challenged, inspired and brought together. A community of ladies, from now all over the world, reading our blogs and spurring each other on. As someone who has written a few blogs it has been lovely to hear I wasn't the only women shrinking clothes, using dry shampoo or really having quiet a few off days or serious life challenges. People commented saying how effected they were by blogs because they themselves were going through it now or were able to offer advice about when you reach the other side! How comforting to know In my vulnerability others were able to share or use their own experiences to encourage me. We have seen this time and time again with every post on the blog and what a blessing it has been.
From this story ladies, I want you to be courageous and step out in faith to what you feel God has for you. If it's a blog, buying someone a bunch of flowers, writing a book, making dinners for family, listen to Gods voice, pray about it, speak with those you trust and then go. The bottom line is there is no ceiling to what God has for us. Whatever God asks of us, He will provide. So this year, lets all step out of our comfort zones, ask God where he wants us to do and then do it because, ladies, you never know whose life you could impact for Jesus as a result.
We are praying that this year, you step out and be courageous!
Our next Ladies event is our Ladies Night In on Saturday 29th of September (Camelon Community Centre- 7.30pm). We will have the opportunity to come together to share an evening of worship, hear a message from our very own Niki Jordaan and catch up with each other over dessert. We will also be having a collection of sanitary products to add to the storehouse ministry to bless women of our community who experience difficulty purchasing sanitary wear due to finances. Tickets are £5 and available at church on Sunday. If you have any questions, comment here or send a message. So looking forward to sharing this evening with you!
Buried in Grace.
Before we take a break from posting fortnightly for summer, I wanted to share some reflections about my walk with God from the last couple of months.
I last posted here around March when I was facing a weekly battle of taking myself to therapy to help untangle my brain. Week by week I walked through my life story and had some pretty big “oooooh riiiiight, of course” moments. That process brought me to a place of understanding more about how I interact with others, the church and God than I ever could have considered. With the grace of God my internal voice has become kinder and more compassionate towards myself and along with also attending the Freedom in Christ discipleship course, I feel a very real difference in my daily life- fear really has had to leave; because freedom is here!
The biggest event in the last while, in which lots of you shared, was my unplanned baptism on Easter Sunday. When Pastor Andrew said the words “anyone else for baptism?”, I knew it was the right thing to do. But the reason I knew, was because quietly in my car a few days earlier; God had asked me to be baptised on Easter Sunday. With this call coming only days before the service was due to take place I was caught up in logistics about not having come forward sooner. So quite simply I conveniently and intentionally forgot to get round to doing anything about it, quietly resolving to do it next time around. But God gave me another prompt- the Thursday before my baptism I received a word at small group, which really couldn’t have been more of a prompt to baptism unless someone had literally spelled out the words “You are getting baptised on Sunday” in front of my face. But still, I didn’t do anything about it.
Easter Sunday came and to be honest, I was glad I hadn’t spoken up because I’m not sure I would have turned up. The morning started with a heart broken, sobbing, wretching lament to God from my bathroom floor triggered by unexpected news. I forced myself to get up from the floor and get ready for church but I felt defeated and my need for Jesus magnified as I arrived at the service. I felt right back in that desert place where I had to choose to either succumb to emotions and circumstances or choose Jesus. I was determined as I took a seat right at the back of the service- I would choose Jesus. And when that call came, “any one else for baptism?”, who was I to say no? So dressed in my favourite dress I surrendered to the goodness of God and was buried and raised in his grace. Months on I remain in awe at the goodness of God on my baptism day. I was far from obedient, in fact I choose specifically not to be obedient. But God took my sinful disobedience, washed in the waters of grace and His will was still done and His goodness and faithfulness tangible.
In the weeks following baptism I felt compelled to ask God for further understanding of His goodness and faithfulness in my life. This quickly turned into asking God for a physical, tangible opportunity to lay down for the final time the acute hurts, frustrations and offence that have come from a year of recovering from shattered dreams. And surely, that moment came, looking nothing like I could or would have prayed for.
At small group last term we studied Bill Johnsons “God is Good” and the final session focused on the goodness of God in the middle of loss. I maintained some form of composure as Bill closed his final session saying these words about loss;
“Bury it deep in the soil of His grace.”
Conversation started around me about the content of the session but I couldn’t concentrate. I knew God was talking to me, asking me to go to a secret place and bury my hurts, offence and shattered dreams in the goodness of his grace. So right there I began to pray through those things silently. But I began to feel God telling me there was something more I was to do; God was asking me to do something I knew I didn’t want to do. He was asking me to quite literally bury something and he was asking me to do it as a tangible act of forgiveness. I was to bury my engagement and wedding rings.
And really, this wasn’t joyous news to me. I went home from small group and instantly thought about how I had probably heard God wrong. Let’s be real- who buries something in the ground that cost a lot of money and is the most expensive gift they’ve ever received? I convinced myself I could sell them and put the money towards a good cause or you know; a mortgage! But then came Sunday morning and the confirmation that selling the rings was not God’s plan. During worship Pastor Kenny shared the story about the women in the bible who anoints Jesus with expensive perfume to ready him for burial, in fact she walks into the room and breaks the perfume bottle above his head so it covers Jesus. The other people in the room become angry with the woman telling her she should have sold the perfume and given the money to they poor. But Jesus hushed the people and blessed the woman for laying down what she had to anoint him for burial. When I went home I pored over the story (Mark 14:1-10) and read of how tender Jesus was towards the woman. Jesus said what she had done was beautiful because she had done what she could with what she had. I knew I had to do what I could with what I had. It didn’t matter if what I was to bury was valuable- because I was doing so as an act of surrender to the grace of God.
As I continued to wrestle with my unexpected assignment I concluded; burial is beautiful. Often, we bury things to grow; seeds, plants, bulbs, and foundations of buildings. Things can’t grow until they are first buried. We bury our loved ones in peaceful respect and remembrance. Burial is intentional. And it’s a million miles away from angrily hurling the rings out of the living room window and into the canal like I often spoke of doing in more delicate, less rational moments. So I began to plan. I planned the burial intentionally, quickly and with the only person I was sure would understand- Mumma Frank. Any woman who can receive a hurried message detailing their daughters intention to bury her once most valuable possession in soil and can respond with only “of course we can do that honey” is exactly the adventure partner I needed. Mum went further than that, she also chose the perfect place, because ; “Jennifer, if you’re going to bury those rings- you may as well do it somewhere beautiful.”
So off we went, the rings wrapped in a shroud of beautiful gold organza and tied up with a neatly written prayer. When we reached the perfect place, I left my mum standing guard and went into a boggy field, dug a hole, stuffed the gold organza bag down into the ground and watched the rings be covered in soil. In this secret place I prayed, asking God for seven times more blessing in the place of all I had lost. There was no anger, no blame, no hurt; I felt only peace as I walked steadily and surely away from my treasure to continue my adventure. And I think about those rings sometimes and I smile, remembering only that every part of every shattered dream is buried in the soil of God’s unending grace.
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal” John 12: 24-25.
Thank you Lord for forever, real and eternal life in your reckless, grace filled love.
Hi, I’m Carol-Anne, wife to Dan and mum to Kathryn, Hannah and Isla. For those who don’t know me particularly well, I would describe myself as an independent, slightly stubborn, compassionate person with leaky eyes.
I turn 40 next year (I know, I don’t look nearly that old ☺) and was looking for ideas to add to my 40 things to do before I turn 40 list and it was suggested that I could write a blog post. It was not something that I added to my list with particular joy as it meant that I would actually have to open up to the blogosphere and talk about me, my feelings and my relationship with God. Talking about myself and my feelings isn’t something that I am particularly good at, so this is a massive challenge for me. However, I’ve known all along what God wanted me to write about, but I have put it off and put it off until I received a text a couple of weeks ago telling me that my blog post would be published on the 9th of June! Well, there was no backing out now….
We moved into our house in August 2016 and I happily drove our car up and down our drive many times over 18 months without incident. One Wednesday morning, that changed. Isla and I got in the car ready to go to rhyme time. I reversed down the drive with Isla talking away to me as she pretty much always does. As I was reversing I realised I hadn’t quite lined the car up properly and promptly set about trying to right the angle of the car. However, somehow, I misjudged what I needed to do and the front nearside wheel of our car slipped off the drive and down the path between the drive and our house.
I sat for a minute trying to work out what had happened and then jumped out the car to see what damage I had done. I couldn’t see any damage, but also couldn’t see how on earth I could possibly get the car back up on the drive.
I phoned Dan who was at work, and as I am prone to do, the leaky eyes started. I couldn’t quite explain to him how the car was ‘parked’ so ended up video calling him so he could see. As we talked through a couple of options of how to get the car back on the drive, one of his first responses was, ‘Phone Lyndsey and get her to come over and support you.’ I thought to myself, but I’m doing okay (other than the leaky eyes), so why would I need someone to come over and support me? Anyway, Lyndsey had safely made it off her driveway and was at rhyme time so I couldn’t possibly phone her. I’d already sent her a message saying I wouldn’t make it to rhyme time with a picture of my badly parked car, so I knew she would pick it up when she could. But I wasn’t going to disturb her morning by phoning. Dan and I talked some more and came up with a few ideas to try. Meanwhile, Lyndsey picked up the message and told me she was coming over, and, knowing my lovely friend, she probably told me off for not phoning her.
I was reminded that day, and so often since, that God didn’t just create us and then abandon us here on earth. He does not expect us to have to deal with life on our own, so He provides people around us who love, care and want to support us. We see this right from the beginning of the Bible as God created Adam and, before too long, said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is right for him.” (Genesis 2:18). Right from the beginning, God made us to be in relationships with others. He created us to need. So, by allowing others to help us, we are enabling them to follow God’s instruction.
Galatians 6:2 says that we should “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ.” By being there for those around us, we too are fulfilling God’s law. While God should always be our most important relationship, I believe He has provided some very special relationships so we can share His love here on earth. And for that, I will be eternally thankful.
So if you, like me, are one of those strong independent women who feel like they are strong enough to deal with everything that life throws at them and then hides away when it actually turns out that you’re not actually as capable of dealing with everything at once, then please remember this: God is there for you, He’s looking out for you and as well as His loving, listening ear and unfailing love, He has provided a whole family of His people down here to help you out. We just need to be brave enough to reach out…
“By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three stranded rope isn’t easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (The Message)
In case you’re wondering what happened with the car, I phoned our very friendly local garage, and after trying to explain to them unsuccessfully what I had done, and that, no, driving back the way I came would not work, they sent a couple of mechanics down to the house. I am reliably informed that as those mechanics sat in their van outside the house they were laughing very hard. At least it meant that by the time they rang the doorbell they were able to talk to me with a (fairly) straight face. They soon rectified the situation with a jack and a plank of wood and amazingly they quickly checked it over and told me that, somehow, I had done no damage to the car whatsoever. I was to pop down to the garage later to square up with the owner. As you can imagine, the story had been shared all over that garage and I am now famous in the garage as the person who parked their car in their garden. I still see the smirk on their face whenever I have to take the car into the garage now.
I've had the first half of this blog post written for over a week and I didn't know how it would end until tonight when God spoke to me while I was doing the dishes (yes God literally is in everything we do!)
I recently had dinner with a friend who is one of the strongest, bravest woman I know. If our lives were depicted as roller coasters her's would have loop the loops whereas mine would be the children's train ride! However, as we chatted about life, the ups and the downs I started talking about some of the challenges I've faced and after sharing one story she exclaimed "you're a survivor!" Me, a survivor? This courageous woman was calling ME a survivor?
As I reflected on this I realised she's right. Every one of us has faced challenges in our lives and guess what? We made it through! So congratulations, you're all survivors! It doesn't matter how big or small the challenges were what matters is that we made it out the other side and that we've been changed through the process. As I look back I can see God's hand throughout my life, shaping and moulding me to be more like him. It is not a coincidence that I'm living here, working as a teacher and worshipping at Falkirk Vineyard. God has me here for a reason and that's exciting!
Life is so busy and fast paced that it's easy to go through things, move on, put them in the back of our minds or forget about them completely but I'd encourage you to take a step back and reflect on what God's done in your life, the good and the bad. Be encouraged that God was faithful and be thankful for how he used it to grow and change you. The Bible says in Roman's 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." So if you're going through a hard time just now, take heart, one day you'll look back and rejoice at how God used the situation!
I've recently been re-reading 'Love Lives Here' by Maria Goff. In it she writes: "Jesus is more interested in who we're becoming than who we were. He doesn't want us to become like each other. He wants us to be like Him." God made each of us unique, he loves us for who we are, the past is in the past and he's changing us to be more like him - how exciting! However, this really hit me, (so much so I reread this chapter at least three times in a week) as I've said I can see how God has changed me throughout my life but how much time do I spend trying to be more like Jesus and how much time do I spend comparing myself to others? Just look at the first paragraph of this blog - guilty of the later!! Comparison doesn't just rob us of joy, it holds us back from being the person that God made us to be. Maria Goff paints a beautiful picture further on in the same chapter as she says:
"God stretches each of our lives before us like a canvas. He hands us the brushes and the paint and asks us to make our lives look like our unique version of His love. Pick your own colours, not someone else's. He only creates originals, not copies, and expects no less from us.
The more time we spend comparing ourselves to others and striving to be more like them the less time we spend with God learning to be more like him. How different would life be if we valued ourselves and others for the individuals that God created us to be and focused on becoming more like Jesus?
Love Claire xxx
Thoughts, experiences, and encouragement from the ladies of Falkirk Vineyard.