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.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Claire, I’m a full time teacher while also currently completing a masters part time at Stirling University. On a Sunday morning you’ll normally find me in a yellow t-shirt on younger kids or hiding behind the piano on the worship band. I like to be busy taking on many additional roles and responsibilities, striving to be the best at everything I do and constantly looking for my next project, you know what they say – ‘if you want something done, ask a busy person’.
I like to give the impression that I can do all of the above and be happy, I can juggle uni with work, keep my house clean and presentable, still make time for the gym five days a week (got to love a 5:45 am alarm), attempt to have a social life and still take on more, right? Wrong! So wrong! Yes I was managing to do all of the above but it was slowly breaking me, I was unhappy, grumpy with those closest to me and close to completely giving up. I didn’t know what to do, where to go and I was questioning whether there was a way out. I was becoming desperate but I maintained a façade that ‘everything was fine’ because I didn’t want anyone thinking I was failure, that I couldn’t manage.
Around this time I had decided to sign up for a 10K run after I felt convicted to raise money for Glasgow Children’s Hospital. I have never been a runner, I hated playing sports as a child and after being laughed at for the way I ran on a treadmill at the age of 16 I vowed never to run again which I didn’t until June this year. My previous attempt at running 10 years ago had resulted in knee pain and my Mum laughed when I told her about my 10K ambitions – this is how out of my comfort zone this was! However, I signed up for the Scottish 10K with only four months to train and took my first steps outside.
The first few attempts were pretty horrendous but I slowly built my stamina and to my (and my parent’s) astonishment within just five weeks I had run my first practise 10K with no knee pain in sight. I found I was not only able to run but I was enjoying it!
There was no doubt that at this time I was over-worked, anxious, had taken on too much and was unable to stop and relax, even more I was spending less and less time with God as uni and work was taking up the majority of my time. However, the time I was spending running was forcing me to stop, I couldn’t look up teaching ideas on Pinterest as I ran and as the running became easier I was relaxing, enjoying myself and beginning to connect with God in a way I hadn’t for a long time. As I ran I began thanking God for His beautiful creation, the weather, the way He has created everything to be unique, designed by His hand.
I started running further each few weeks spending more and more time outside and as I ran I began praying to God, talking to Him about my hopes, dreams, worries and fears and I found that as I ran God started breaking the chains which were holding me back: I am not enough. I can’t let anyone down. I have to be strong and capable to be loved and accepted. Love and relationships are conditional. I have to prove my worth. Instead I started believing that I don’t have to prove myself, people will love me for who I am, God made me the way I am and I started to let it sink in that He will never love me any more or any less than He does now no matter how much I’ve messed up in the past or will in the future.
This hasn’t been a quick journey (this is only a small snapshot), this has taken months of baby steps forward and some giant steps backwards but I’m getting there. I successfully ran the 10K a few weeks ago and am enjoying training for my first half marathon in May, it’s not always easy, I’ve not always got the motivation to go out but once I get over the door and get started it’s amazing how much better I feel.
Alongside the gift of running God has provided a beautiful friend who has allowed me to talk through my fears and anxieties, listening to my ups, downs and sagas of life each week, He has also provided an amazing circle of friends who have prayed, encouraged and laughed with me in the highs and the lows. Above all He has been incredibly patient as I move towards an understanding that God loves me just the way I am and that it is ok to not be ok.
As 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Love Claire x
There was a day not so long ago that I call ‘The fateful mint aero rocky road day’.
My lovely friend Mhairi had successfully made a delicious treat which I loved. I asked for the recipe and was excited to make it for my friends coming round. I am 35 years old and have worked out some of my strengths and weaknesses. While I am first to admit my many failings I am fairly confident in my cooking abilities. This recipe looked like a breeze. I tried, I failed. I bought more ingredients, I tried again, I failed. I bought yet more ingredients… I tried, I failed… do you see where this is going?
I cried, I wailed, I swore, I declared in a loud unwavering voice “This rocky road will not defeat me!” (In case your wondering it did) I wholeheartedly overreacted when my husband gingerly suggested I stop and maybe just buy some cookies and I shouted things like, “I can’t do anything else in life! This is the only thing I am good at and now I can’t even do this - I’m a complete failure!” I slammed doors wasted more money on something that didn’t matter. This rocky road was becoming a battle I was going to win and after spending over £20 on ingredients I finally admitted defeat. It had won. I couldn’t do it. I felt a failure. I had not only wasted money, swore at my husband and acted like a raving lunatic in front of kids crying into my seized chocolate I had surprised myself.
The things that I said about myself, did I really believe them? I thought I had embraced Gods grace for me. How could a traybake shake me so much. Did I really base that much of self worth in my cooking. What was so awful about buying cookies?!?
It’s a funny story and looking back I can laugh. But I had to answer those questions. Who really cared about the traybake? My friends didn’t. It was pride and God was teaching me through this. Niki, you can’t be perfect. It’s not about what you can do. Accept my grace.
I was sure I had dealt with these insecurities already and I shocked myself.
Tonight as I remember this day I am reminded of the words of a song, “You’re not finished with me yet! By your power, I can change I can change. You’re not finished with me yet.” These words that are circling round my head.. and I’m am not so tunefully singing them and can’t stop tears welling up as I think about Gods grace and abundant love…God is not done with me! He has pruned me, moulded me, pointed out the stuff I’m not proud of, shone light on the darkness and lifted me out of the filth! He’s saved my life! And yet he’s not finished! I am so grateful! He’s never done with me, he is never going to stop loving me..I literally am tired of my own voice saying sorry at times, I’m tired of making the same mistakes and repeating the same patterns but He never ever ever tires of forgiving me! He adores me. I am the apple of his eye! And he’s not done!!! In fact I believe the best is yet to come! Instead of sitting still and having my story stop here I will run forward and press on and into what comes next!
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -- Philippians 1:6
How exciting. So yes, a mint aero chocolate rocky road may still reduce me to a potty mouth lunatic but there is grace for me!!! He’s not done! In his goodness he says keep going , keep pressing on toward the goal. My story isn’t over. It’s still being written. My worth is not found in what I can do but who I am in Christ and what he has done for me! I am not defined by my failures and disappointments. Today I had those same friends over for lunch. I love cooking for people and I really enjoyed preparing and making them lunch and for pudding…. I bought some cookies. I am learning it’s all about grace not perfection!
P.S. My beautiful and talented friend Carol Anne was also defeated by the rocky road recipe but she didn’t swear!!! She kindly sent me a picture of her separated chocolate and told me I wasn’t the only one. Don’t you just love friends like that?
I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I will press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. -- Philippians 3:13-14
Love Niki x
Thoughts, experiences, and encouragement from the ladies of Falkirk Vineyard.