adrift, little boat

Are you in a transition season?
I feel you, girlfriend.
Yet when I look back on the last six months, I can see the way that God was weaving and fitting the pieces of my life together, when at the time, I didn’t think they made sense. 
To me they were scraps of paper, half written paragraphs, and unfinished poems. I wondered why; why here, why now, this is not what I expected.
Each day I’d walk from my car to the office and ask God, ‘What do I need to learn in this season? What is it about this place of transition that I need, to be able to enter into the new?’

 Our family has walked so many transitions over the past year. 
Change, even when it’s been much anticipated and excitedly expected, can be difficult. It’s tricky finding your feet when the ground beneath you feels like it’s constantly shifting. Constantly feeling like you’re balancing precariously across an unfamiliar path can be exhausting. I have felt exhausted.

Often, it’s not until we look back on certain seasons that we begin to understand the way they fit. The way that God held them all together—going before us, writing our days together and seeing the end when we couldn’t. He knows the messes we’ll make before we make them, and still He’s willing to hold us, and help us. 

 A friend and I walked this week and she described transition seasons so beautifully. She said it’s like being adrift in the ocean, where the fog is too thick to see what comes next, or which direction to go. When sailors face this on their ships they cut the engines, they pull down the sails and they watch the sky. Because you can’t go full steam in any direction when you can’t see what’s ahead.
They watch the sky and wait. They wait, with their eyes fixed up

 It’s what I did. I watched and waited. I wondered what God was up to, and relinquished those things I couldn’t control. I voiced my hopes, and asked and trusted that He knew what he was doing. The fog was thick, but I knew that if I watched and waited long enough that the sky would clear and the path would be visible. Today, I feel like I’m sailing gently out of the murky waters. The fog is lifting and I’m beginning to see the path I need to take, and why I needed to drift right here into this moment. 

 Today I want to encourage you that whatever season you’re in, you can trust that God holds you. That He goes before you, and that if you pay close attention, you might just see what He’s up to. This poem from Song of Songs has brought comfort to me recently and I wanted to share:

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 purposes and plans
are bursting forth. 
The budding vines of new life
are now blooming everywhere.
The fragrance of their flowers whisper,
“There is change in the air.”

If you feel like your little boat is adrift on unknown waters, just cut the engines. Don’t be too hasty to make decisions. Stop and still. Maybe put a hand out, let it float in the calm. Before long, the fog will lift and you’ll know where it is you need to go. For now, rest assured that indeed there’s a new day of destiny breaking forth around you. 

xx

threads of jesus

I had the sudden urge last week to clean out a cluttered shelf right at the back of my robe. 
It contained a whole array of things I was keeping ‘just in case’ which were ruthlessly thrown from my perch on a stool down into a big cardboard box headed for the thrift store. 
At the back of this robe though, I discovered a box of old journals dating back to 2004. 
Pulling this hefty weight down from the shelf and onto my bed I intended to flick through quickly, stack them again neatly and return them to their place. 
Instead, I found myself transported back fourteen years, where old seasons of my life replayed before my eyes and became real again. 
My accounts of friendships, of my every day, of work and life as a single young woman who’d just moved in to her very own apartment.
I was cringing awkwardly reading the words of my 19 year old self, as well as feeling again all the emotions that went with the territory of discovering God, and myself, and caring deeply what other people thought, and crushing hard on a boy who was just as clueless as I was, and who played with my heart a little too frivolously. 

I sat for what felt like hours, and still days later it was playing on my mind.  
I was remembering what it felt like to fight with that boy, to feel lost and unsure, and reliving afresh falling pregnant at 20, unmarried, and feeling like my whole world capsized. 

The journals are full of prayers, written to a God I barely knew and my scribbled imaginings of the future that I’m living now
And in this now, on the other side of all those things that didn’t make sense at the time, I see them so differently. 
I see the boy who became my husband and laugh at how little we knew each other then, and how deep a love can go. 
I see the threads of Jesus woven through years of a young girl’s life, all of it leading me to this place here and now. 
I see that the prayers I prayed then, however awkward and cringeworthy were not in vain – that He saw, He heard, He was there, even when I didn’t feel Him.

And it reminds me that in my now when I am unsure of what’s to come, when I try to control flimsy moments in my days, or feel like my prayers are silent in heaven – that He is in control. That one day this will be the past I look back on and I’ll see clearly the threads of Jesus woven through my life as a beautiful tapestry. That He takes my awkwardness, my doubt, my heart after Him, and weaves it together like a beautiful love story. 

You are so intimately aware of me, Lord.
You read my heart like an open book
and you know all the words I’m about to speak
before I even start a sentence!

You know every step I will take before my journey even begins.
You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way,

and in kindness you follow behind me
to spare me from the harm of my past
Psalm 139:3-5

Jesus’ disciples were trying to understand what He was telling them, in the lead up to the cross. They didn’t get what God was doing, couldn’t see His grand plan in the midst of confusion… but in this lead up to Easter, in this Lent season, I want to encourage us that He’s gone into our future to prepare a way! We can’t always see it, but we can trust that He is ever holding, ever loving, ever weaving His love story through our lives. 

God, help me to always remember that You are in control. When life doesn’t make sense, YOU still do. When what happens around us is far from good, you are still Good. Thank you for paving the way to our future for us, and waiting for us there with grace, and for weaving through our lives your never-giving-up love. Amen x

thoughts on new growth and heart-soil

Yesterday afternoon the girls and I spent gardening in the front yard, re-potting succulent babies, and topping concrete containers with rich black soil. I had afternoon sun on my back, and dirt under my fingernails as I scooped the damp soil up with my hands, and patted it down around green and growing things. 

I have a little succulent collection that sits by my front door, reminding me to tend them, water them and sprouting wiry stalks and thick spindly leaves. One of these leaves dropped off, unnoticed, until discovered, probably a couple of months later by my eldest daughter. 
The fallen leaf had begun to sprout and create it’s very own plant, and as it’s roots went deeper, the leaf itself had begun to wither. 
Fascinated when I told her the clever ways of these succulents, Eden watched YouTube videos on propagation and began her own little collection. She gently pulled leaves from a variety of plants, laid them out on top of some soil, and has faithfully watered her babies every day. 
The picked-off fronds are beginning to grow new tiny leaves, and send down thread-thin roots all the while beginning to wither themselves. New life, “touched by a tiny bit of death”*

It reminds me of my own growth; that internal change. If I slow down enough, and get close enough, I can see the tiny tiny shoots of newness. But what must die alongside the growth?
What must be done under the cover of rich, dark soil in the depths of my soul?

So much in our world is focused on the outward appearances. 
Our streamlined Instagram accounts, manicured nails, clickbait titles, and marketing campaigns. Everything designed to wow us into comparison, and the facade of perfection. 
In the upside down kingdom of God, what matters is not the outward appearance. 
Jesus’s focus was, and will always be, the condition of our hearts. 
He wants to know if our roots are strong, if the soil is right for the growing, and if, deep down there in the centre of it, there is a home there for Him.
None of which is visible to the human eye. 

We can chase perfection, to the detriment of our souls, or we can choose to remove ourselves from the harried and breathless pace of the world, and breathe in slow.
We can choose to stop worrying about what we look like, and start to focus on what we are like.
I can look good, or I can choose the fruit of goodness. 
I can have a ‘lovely home’ or I can truly spend my days loving others. 
I can fret about what other people think, or I can rest in the true peace that comes from placing far more weight on the opinion of the God who loves me unconditionally.  

When we stop and slow – thrust our hands into the dirt, our toes into beach sand, or our nose into a book – we can start to tend lovingly the new growth in hidden places, and place more emphasis on what is beneath the surface, rather than what is visible. Matthew 13 speaks to us about the soil of our hearts. 

Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.
The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.
The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.

Jesus I pray that those reading Your Word today would have tended the soil of their hearts well. That You would help us to focus more on your invisible kingdom, on goodness and faith – and let those things in us that need to die, to wither away to make more room for Your growth. Help us to embrace slow, to breathe in time with Your heartbeat, instead of rushing along in the pace set by the world around us. Give us eyes to see the invisible. Amen.
 

 

*Henri Nouwen

  

journal | end of year reflections

It’s the time of year where I start looking forward to a new beginning. Reflecting on the old and ready to usher in the new, the fresh, the clear and the promising. Something in me wrestles to not let another year go by without taking steps towards the things I’ve put on hold. 
This year in particular has been very full.
Bustling and busy, I studied full time in the first semester and I spent a lot of time juggling this with ministry, and family.
Chewing over this year though, I realised I have been letting my yesses to some good things prevent me from being able to say yes to the best things.* The things on my heart. The things that will take guts and intention, planning and hard work.
Because this: good planning and hard work lead to prosperity.** I need to do the hard work part.
I can plan, and write lists and draw mind-maps like a boss. But I am not so good at the doing. 
I’m great at dreaming and envisioning.
But my steps are slow and my mind overthinks and my perfectionist self hesitates in case what is produced is not good enough.
I am not great at shitty first drafts. ***
I am not great at putting it out there if it’s flawed.
I am not great at keeping myself accountable. 
I get discouraged quickly.
Apathy is all too familiar… and is the absolute enemy to the life I know I’m called to live.
Full and bustling and bursting, yes. Yet settled and still and resting in grace.

Maybe I have to hustle to fill in the gaps. Hustle to avoid procrastination… and then the rest comes in the real doing, the graced doing. Maybe there’s a hustle to get to the grace?

And this time of year I’m pressing in to work it out. 
Waiting for the answers to the unanswered questions. 
Believing for completion of the untied ends and frayed edges.
Hoping to finish strong, but still feeling weak and needy and unsure.

For now, I’ll write more lists, and scribble more dreams with the hope that He writes on my heart, and breathes in His purpose.
Because the new year is beckoning, just like He is.

xx

* John C. Maxwell
** Proverbs 21:5
*** Anne Lamott
 

[If you are wanting to do some real retreating + reflecting I’d strongly encourage you to download Amanda Viviers’ New Year Vision Book – it’s free!]

where are we going?

I get annoyed sometimes because I can’t see the end.
If only I could see clearly the way life will pan out for us, I could focus on what really matters.
If only I could see the finished jigsaw instead of what now looks like an unfinished, abstract mess, then I wouldn’t feel so unsettled and unsure. 
If only I could see clearly what God has put inside me to use, and to develop, and to sow then I wouldn’t bury everything and hide away.

I’m Thomas. The doubting disciple.
The beautiful, comforting words of Jesus tells them* not to let their hearts be troubled, to trust Him. Everyone else seems okay with this. Except Thomas. I imagine these beautiful, comforting words lingered in his mind for a little bit. They sounded nice but then the pause. Logic and reality hit him like a train. Wait a second, what are you even talking about?! You can tell me not to be troubled all you like but I AM troubled! “No, we don’t know, Lord” Thomas says, “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” I know how Thomas feels. 
“WHERE ARE WE GOING?!” I scream it in my mind. 
I demand it, frown, try to move away from the discomfort. NO WE DON’T KNOW, JESUS. 
I DON’T KNOW!

I don’t know! I don’t know where I’m going, I don’t know specifically, what I need to be doing. I have no map, no timeline, no checklist. What if I’m going the wrong way? What if I make a choice and it’s the wrong one?

But I think that’s the point. The point of the faith that we’re supposed to have for God to smile upon us. The faith that says, “I can’t see the way, but I know Who the Way is.”
And it’s always the Who that is the most important.
And He is the one who promises peace regardless.
Regardless of how much we feel we’re stepping out into nothingness – He’ll catch us.
Regardless of how much we feel we’re flailing on a path alone – we’re not. 
We’re left with the gift ofpeace of mind and heart. “And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”**

“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught” ***

As frustrating as it is that I can’t see the end, I can see Him. I can know Him. And instead of being berated for doubting He simply promises peace, even when I can’t see the way, and when the path before me is dim. 

xx

* John 14
** John 14:27
*** Message Paraphrase