Sunday, 23 November 2014

Awakening to Advent

November fog invades my brain, stealing away brightness, coating all in its dreary gloom.

Seasons affect us more than we know. Each one leaves a footprint of their presence.

This season? My soul needs quiet, my body craves sleep and rest, my spirit thirsts after the place where I converse with God, on the doorstep of my heart.

I'm seeking after sacred pauses, making way for holy moments in the everyday.

As my health has declined over the last few months, I've needed to withdraw quite a bit from social media interaction, groups and conversations, and I've also missed the quiet times and places where my soul speaks with God.

Although it's what I've needed more than anything, it's also been a casualty of the storms of life.

'Quiet Time' ceased to be such as my fog-brained, pain-filled body yearned for sleep, became preoccupied and anxious; and praying was reduced to quick-fire cries for help.

These needs cannot be ignored. We pine and die inside without letting the Light in. Because a weary mind and body need His strength to go on, don't they?

There's a shift beneath the surface of my slow, sluggish days. A stirring toward all my soul desires to stay sane, stable and at rest.

An acknowledgement that I am lost and lonely when I fail to spend quality time with God.

I want to awaken to Advent without the world's noise intruding strong, resist its clamouring tongue and clarion call to excess consumption.

And as I try to still my heart, listen to the One whom my soul loves and runs after, I sense Him whispering these words:

"Be aware; be watchful; be prepared. The King is coming. He is with you.

Keep your eyes peeled and your heart receptive. Don't let it grow hard or cold.

 Allow a Holy longing to touch mystery seep slow into your soul and invade mind and spirit.

A new morn dawns in the history of mankind. 

A new day to rejoice and be glad, for your God is with you and He is mighty to save. 

A reason for humble thanksgiving.

Come closer. Come empty. Come freely. Come frequently. I will fill you to overflowing.

My throne room is always open to you and you will find a warm welcome here.

Spend your precious energy in seeking Me. I will refuel you.

Lavish attention on My glorious provision. I will give you all your soul longs for.

Whisper it loud. Joy is here for all to share. There are no beggars in My Kingdom.

This sacred place makes space for all who hunger and thirst for Me.

And in this season, all who seek Me with their whole heart will find Me.

There will be celebration over every soul who makes way for the King to live within.

Share your words; share your heart; share the promises fulfilled in Jesus, My Son.

Your watching, waiting and praying will have their reward.

As your heart makes room for the King of kings, it will be filled and flooded with the love, joy and peace of His presence.

Reflect on these things anew; rest in My goodness and grace, and remain in Me always"

How can we awaken anew to the watching, waiting wonder of Advent?

As well as revisiting the biblical narrative (and maybe listening to a few Christmas songs to get me in the mood!), here are some of the things I have at hand to help me in this season:

1) Re-reading 'Touching Wonder:Recapturing the Awe of Christmas' by John Blase ~ a delightful, warm way of connecting to the humanity of Advent and the Nativity via insightful words, reflection and prayer. 

2) Reading 'The Deep Place - where nobody goes:Connecting with God on the steps of my soul' by Jill Briscoe ~ and rediscovering the wonder and encouragement of being able to have a relationship and conversations with God.

3) Diving into 'Advent with St Francis:Daily Reflections' by Diane M.Houdek in an attempt to recover rest, simplicity and respect for the mystery of it all. 

4) Seeking more spiritual whitespace by returning to the insights in, 'Finding Spiritual Whitespace:Awakening Your Soul to Rest' by Bonnie Gray and making room for resting in God as part of needful self-soul-care. 

5) Savouring 'A Faraway Smell of Lemon - A Christmas Short Story' by Rachel Joyce (author of 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry) as a way to rediscover the human pangs and joys of Christmas.  

As you can see, an awful lot of reading and contemplation could be going on as I dip in and out of these books! Maybe my desires will crash under the weight of them. Time will tell..

How about you? Are you entering Advent with anticipation or grim determination?

Feel free to share what helps (or hinders) your faith-walk in this busy season. I love to hear from you. 

I'm linking here today with Janis for Sunday Stillness and with Charlotte for Spiritual Sundays. You are warmly invited to join us. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

When everything gets shaken, hold on to this

There's a whole lot of shaking going on right now.

And it's afflicting the whole family. 

We are trying to roll with the punches as they come at us from all directions.

Everything feels topsy-turvy, upside-down and back-to-front. 

All we held dear, depended on, kept close is now drifting off into the distance and we grasp at straws, clutch at air and come up empty-handed. Ache for familiar. Long for lasting. Mourn 'normal'.

Careers, family, health, jobs, routine, stability, calm are all casualties of this storm.

Like a scared child we seek shelter, a rock to cling to.

Prayer become a desperate plea for help, other words fail us.

Battered, bruised and battle-weary, we sink to our knees. Hope still lifted banner-high. Because the One we hope in is ever-faithful.

When earth shifts like sand beneath your feet and menacing mountains loom over you, where is shelter and safety to be found?

Where it always is and always has been... in our Saviour's arms. Safely sheltered by the Rock of Ages.

Here, we can let down our guard and finally relax. He is ever-vigilant on our behalf. Has already fought every battle for us.

Arms wrap tender and gentle our fretful hearts. He whispers close. I AM here. I AM able. I AM your safe place. Always.

The world mocks us with its promises. They fall like petals to ground. Nothing of substance to be found.

Only Jesus is Truth, is substance, hope, help and promises kept.

Truth be told, all looks scary in the eye of the storm but it's the place where He meets with us most. In the teeth of trouble and trials. In the midst of mayhem and mess.

Things may not calm around us in an instant but we are given grace to slowly become calm, breathe easy, experience the blessed peace that passes human understanding.

We gain courage from seeing tiny chinks of light appearing in the gathering gloom. Grace glimmers from afar.

And we get brave enough to kick sand from our wilderness shoes and press on for one more step.. and the next... and so on.

Because every battering from the enemy brings us one day closer to final victory ~ already secured in Christ ~ becoming a living reality.

We may be choking on sand, drowning with waves over our heads, bent over from burdens that cripple and maim our frames, but we're only downtrodden for a season, not defeated for ever.

Hope will rise strong again. Grace lifts our eyes to the hills from where our help comes from.

When everything that can be shaken feels like it's happening to us, we can be encouraged by remembering:

"Do you see what we've got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship" ~ Hebrews 12:28 (The Message) 

Friend, I don't know your personal circumstances, struggles or pain, but I wouldn't mind betting that you've seen your fair share of storms and may be in the midst of one right now, yes?

My lengthy travels on the road of faith have convinced me about the best Who we should take our troubles to. 

Meanwhile, let us also support and encourage one another on the journey, press on with perseverance, look to His word, take hold of those wonderful, unshakable promises and wait for their final fulfilment to come.

I'm linking here today to share encouragement with Janis for Sunday Stillness and with Charlotte for Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, 7 November 2014

When dark shadows come your way

The day was almost over. Street-lighting shone its artificial bright outside my room but here inside all was warm glow, cosy and snug.

I lay curled up, still reading when common-sense dictated closure was sensible, but I wanted to devour my book for just a little bit longer.

A vague dark shadow, accompanied by a light tapping noise, made me look around, and I didn't like what I saw.

My eyes came face to face with a hairy intruder. I startled and screamed.

Spiders and I have never been the best of friends.

I'd only tried to be brave in dealing with them over the years so as to not give my children/husband any reason to be otherwise. 

I can just about handle the little greyish-brown common-or-garden variety, but encountering a larger black furry one makes me want to run away.

A needs-must situation meant grabbing the nearest thing at hand. Out came a tissue and down swooped my hand.

As I gingerly prised it apart, I was dismayed to discover that the arachnoid had the upper hand instead of me.

He (they're always a he in my mind) had escaped my clutches, curled small and scuttled swift away. What could I do now? 

The only thing for it was to put brighter lights on and do a systematic check of everything around the bed. I began timidly before my OH took over the task.

Stacks of books, pens, notepads, tissues, phone, clock, throat sweets etc were duly removed one by one, bedclothes rolled back and shaken, pillows too.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Not a sausage, and no spider either.

We soon realised there was nothing for it but to return to bed and try to sleep regardless... gulp! Are you kidding? He's still around somewhere.

What if he makes a return revenge visit during the night and brings some friends with him?

And as I lay there worried (ridiculous, right, considering his size and ours?) and wary, sleep was fitful and I woke more exhausted than usual.

Then, as I thought about things in the morning, I remembered that my husband had only just cleaned the room a couple of days beforehand.

Considering its previously dirty state with dust-bunnies breeding all over the place (please don't judge) maybe he'd disturbed some spiders and they were looking for a new place to hide.

Isn't that similar to what happens when we decide to clean up our act before God, to live a purer life, seek His face more, pray with greater persistence, live All In for Him?

Because the sneaky enemy of our souls finds a weak spot (or more) to crawl into and disturb us, making us feel that we're defeated before we get started.

Guilt and condemnation come. A multiplicity of mundane frustrations fall our way. Problems abound. Discouragement sits heavy in our souls.

A dark shadow pervades our days and we feel far from the Lord. He seems to be silent and far from us too, although His word promises He never leaves nor forsakes us.

Maybe we even consider why we bother to be wholehearted about our faith if it leads to This?

Well let me tell you, my friend, I've discovered it's always worthwhile to follow hard after God. Yes, especially when life gets harder.

The benefits far outweigh the potential for upsets. Those problems and pitfalls, the dark nights of the soul? They're proof that you're only human and you're on the right road.

The enemy has no reason to bother you unless you're a threat to him.

We cannot aim to get closer to God without expecting greater testing and temptation to come our way. It's a given. 

He is refining the dross from us, purifying motives and intent, sifting and saving us even as we struggle. Holding us close in the midnight hours.

Our reactions and responses to trials are what count as we learn how to grow into Christ-likeness.

Are we allowing the enemy to make us act unwisely? Or are we discerning his wiles and acting in accordance with God's will?

Some times will be easier than others in living as an overcomer. We're weak; we fail and falter. But there is grace for it all.

Some troubles are just too huge to work through quickly. We may need extra support from others, possibly professional help, and time to recover our equilibrium.

We need to maintain a daily dependence on God, and keep our heavenly armour on as we walk the way of faith.

Perseverance and persistence will have its way in us as we look to the Lord at all times, because God rewards all who diligently seek after Him, no matter what it looks or feels like right now. 

Things won't always be this bad and we will learn a lot through our problematic and painful circumstances, through surrender, through seeking His face in the midst of it all.

I don't want to let fear get the upper-hand or prevent me from pursuing my potential and destiny in Christ, and I guess you don't either.

So, with hindsight, I'm actually grateful for the spider's visit. He brought about this reflection, and a deepening trust in God to see me through all the troubling events I may yet encounter.

I just need to remember that as I crawl beneath the covers again, with a beady eye kept open... just in case. And to let God's light in on any dark areas that may emerge.

*NOTE* ~  My inspiring writer friend, Heather Mertens, is particularly passionate about living #ALLIN for Jesus. If you also desire to live a wholehearted Christian life and meet others who could encourage and support you on the journey, then you might like to connect with this community of beautiful believers on Facebook.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The best motivation of all

My heart leaps at the sight of him. 

He turns at the sound of my voice, eyes lighting up as recognition dawns.

Then he scampers toward me on all fours, a big beaming grin on his face.

One tiny hand after another planted on my legs as he totters successfully to his feet.

Throwing caution to the winds, (and abandoning the support of my walking stick) I stoop and scoop him to me.

We haven't seen one another in the flesh for almost a month, so we slowly become reacquainted again. 

I hold him close, marvelling at my grandson's warm weightiness and the beautiful feel of him, just as I did when he was only a few days old.

Yes, it would have been safer for me to have sat and waited while a parent passed him to me but I was impatient to cuddle him straight away.

We play together for a while and I am child again in his company.

Forgetting my limitations, pressing past the pain, I revel in the freedom of being here with the little boy who lights up my life.

I could have been more cautious, exercised some common-sense.

I could have thought more about the effects on my body of bending low and lifting his small frame.

I could have decided I was too unfit, too sore, too stiff to engage in lifting, never mind play.

But I didn't.

Admittedly, I can't do crawling races and chases like daddy or grandpa can, nor can I run or walk swift to keep apace with him like others will do.

I am the grandma who mostly sits, slides gradual and careful to the floor, the one who bends M.E and arthritic-stiff legs slowly sideways before they protest too much.

I can still stack cups, build brick towers, shake rattles and soft toys, play peek-a-boo and feed him his meals.

I will be the one who reads stories, sings nursery rhymes, does puzzles and plays the slower games.

I may be the one who gives him wheelchair rides instead of pushchair ones. Who knows?

And much as I treasure each moment and opportunity to be with him, there is always a degree of payback afterwards.

For each extra exertion comes a fresh wave of pain and fatigue, maybe unnoticed at the time (such is my focus on the moment) but relentless soon afterwards.

It can take many days to recover from pushing myself too much. Often weeks.

Though it all pales into insignificance besides the opportunity to be with my family, share time, show love.

Because in the end, love is the best and strongest motivation of all.

It changes us as we give out to others. We willingly leave our comfort zones, embrace new things, extend ourselves beyond our previous capacities.

The heart of the matter is always a matter of the heart. 

As God's love gradually thaws, restores, envelops and invades our hearts, we become open to the possibility of transformation and change.

The real, open-eyed aware, deep sacrificial, complete, unconditional, totally giving love of God helps set us free from ourselves.

It helps us grow into faith and maturity, to be sacrificial, show compassion, give generously of ourselves, our time and resources.

"We love because He first loved us" ~ 1 John 4:19

Our human way of love, wonderful as it can be, is but a poor imitation and reflection of God's love.

This is what we are aiming for as we grow more into Christ-likeness:

"Love never gives up. 
Love cares for others more than self. 
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. 
Love doesn't strut, 
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep a score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of the truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end." (1 Corinthians 13:3-13 ~ The Message)

I'm a long way off loving like this but I have a deep appreciation for the love which God has already implanted in my heart, which keeps increasing as I grow in faith and understanding.

We are born to love God and to love others. To live unselfish lives.

And what stronger motivation do we need than seeing how much God loves us and desires to be in relationship with us?

Friday, 17 October 2014

How to regain joy and peace

Several days have passed in a cloud of unknowing.

Mists of time where I have lost sense of God's presence.

Drifted away within a haze of pain, a plethora of painkillers and a fog of fatigue.

I've felt too weary to pray, to read, to converse, or be seen.

But God...

He held me closer than the sharp darts of pain.

He kept me safe when I failed to notice His Presence.

He reminded me of My great need of His grace.

He whispered words of comfort to my aching, frustrated heart.

This too shall pass. No pain is ever permanent or permanently as relentless as this.

No suffering could steal me away from His hands. He is just a breath, a prayer away.

He is ever close to the hurting, the weak, the weary, the discouraged and the needy.

And He reassured me His love for me wasn't based on my performance, effort, ability or the lack thereof. 

God loves us Just As We Are right now, and as we are continually changing into all He intends us to become.

As the fog of forgetfulness, pressure of persistent pain and cloak of weakness began to lift a little today, God also reminded me I still have a voice.

I still have a mission. I still have a word to share. I still have work to do for Him.

A way to encourage others going through tough times.

The key is to keep on listening, keep on trusting, keep on seeking after God's heart, rest where necessary and believe that words will flow when they should.

Now armed with a bit of Holy Spirit-given awareness, peace and energy, I am sharing words God whispered close to me in prayer over a week ago and brought to my remembrance today.

May they help, bless, encourage and reassure you too.

Prayer Whisper:'Regaining joy and peace'

Don't be so hard on yourself, My child. I see your heart. I know you long to live differently and regain peace and joy. Your wanderings have shown you that seeking such things in the world is fruitless; you will only come up empty every time. The fleeting happiness it offers is rapidly replaced by the sour fruit of envy and comparison, disappointment, doubt and discouragement, sorrow and sadness. Full, true, lasting joy is only to be found in Me. I have an unstoppable flow running from My throne.

Come closer; lift your weary head and seek the light of My countenance. In My Presence is fullness of joy for ever more. Come bathe in My Love-light. Let it fill and flood your very being. There is nothing to be afraid of; there is no darkness here. I bring you hope and healing, and freedom from despair. Come freely; come frequently. Allow My Spirit to fill you to overflowing so that there is blessing to give out to others.

I long for your company, for you to share every aspect of your day and life with Me. There is always a warm welcome here, no matter what has transpired. I offer the mercy, forgiveness, cleansing and restoration you need to heal all your brokenness.

Lay your burdens at My feet and leave them there. Don't be tempted to pick them up again once you go about your day. I will take care of them, carry every single one and answer every need. Trust Me to look after each tiny detail of your life. Nothing is too small to bring to Me, not too heavy for Me to handle. I am your Burden-bearer and the lifter of your head. Release them all into My hands and be freed to live lightly and joyfully again”

If you would like to be further encouraged in your walk of faith by similar 'Prayer Whispers' then click on the category over at to read more.

This post is part of my attempt to #writebraveandfree for #31days, though I am only joining in as health, energy and inspiration allow me to. If you're curious to know more, it all began here.. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Keep on walking

Our walk of faith so often feels like a treacherous journey through mud and mire, thorns and thistles, sinking sand and stony ground.

Obstacles abound. We wonder where a safe passage can be found.

Weeds wind their pernicious way around our hearts.

Pebbles press into our shoes and we become impatient pilgrims.

Problems multiply and challenges come. Each one seemingly bigger than before.

Are we ready for them? 

Are we armed and dangerous?

Not always.

Although we have the soft breath of Holy Spirit whispering wisdom and the wild wind of His power sweeping through us, we tend to forget He is ever-present.

And we need to seek God's will as we walk with awareness through our days.

Read and absorb His word. Believe and declare its truth and rest in His promises.

Be on our guard against the snares of the enemy. Have our shield of faith in place and wield the sword of the Spirit.

Be vigilant. Be prepared. Be ready to turn to God in an instant in dependence and prayer.

I've been caught out lately as I allowed negativity and discouragement to eat away inside my soul.

Watched weariness bringing out the worst in me.

Allowed irritability to replace tranquillity. 

Gave a foothold to fatigue instead of resting in God's peace.

Made comparisons that stole my joy, rather than being satisfied with what I had and who I am in Christ.

Became critical and cautious instead of being open and giving.

My weaknesses are many and the openings all too easy to breach unless I keep my guard up.

But there is a way to stay at rest, to enjoy where we are on the way to where we're going.

And it starts with seeing things God's way, seeing ourselves as we truly are and seeing His solution to it all.

It's an uncomfortable thing to gain self-awareness through our faults and failings, but it will also be the beginning of the overcoming of them.

Staying trapped, staying the same, staying bound is not an option for a blood-bought child of God.

We are supposed to grow into the best of ourselves as we continue to lay down and yield the worst of ourselves.

Your walk may be taking you through smooth, sunny pastures or into the eye of a storm.

No matter where you're situated right now....God is there. He walks with you and holds you close. 
"When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn't go off and leave us - he enters into our trouble and saves us" ~ Eugene H. Peterson in 'A Long Obedience in the Same Direction'
You never walk alone. 

You can never fall into a pit so deep that His arm cannot reach down to pull you out of it.

There is always hope for healing, for change, for transformation and restoration.

Cling to the cross. Hold hard to God's hand, follow after His heart, and lean into His embrace.

He already knows your every weakness and pain. Every aspect of sin and shame is laid bare before Him.

Let Him minister to you and bring you through; allow grace to permeate and saturate your days.

In surrender you will find sanctuary. And the deep soul rest, peace and ease you need to keep on walking on.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Colouring within the lines

My life has failed to be a riotous whirl of colour. The corners creep out grey and edges are smudged and blurred.

As a small child I was taught to colour carefully within the lines. Keep to borders and boundaries.

Back in the day, that meant keeping to strict limitations set by teachers rather than self-imposed ones.

Now, as I pause and ponder how my life has turned out, I wonder if I am able to add touches of brightness to the grey, throw a bit of teal or a dash of purple over the sad places and bring the picture to life again.

Like many of you, I have health and strength limitations, confines to the corners of my days, pressing and pushing from challenging circumstances that squeeze me tight with their prescriptive lines.

How would it look to live cheerfully and willingly within that defined circle?

Could I colour within its circumference?

"What if you learned that even the mistakes that have marked your life can be redeemed? What if you learned, rather than to be defeated by the lines that have been marked on your life, to color inside the lines?" ~ Matt Appling in 'Life after Art'

Herein lies a challenge to us all. 

How to live fully and freely within the place in which we dwell ~ mentally, physically and spiritually.

For freedom is more a matter of the mind and heart than of any perceived box we may live in.

On the inside, where it really counts, I am as free as a bird. Though I tend to forget it at times.

I can live unchained and unfettered. And so can you. 

The more we rest in God the less we'll stress about situations we cannot change.

Jesus has paid the price for such glorious liberty. His blood splashes its scarlet hues over every aspect of our lives.

Meanwhile, we live in a world of confines, conflict and constraints.

Maybe God can help me and you to colour it bright by His grace? Its golden thread weaves its strands throughout our days.

How would it look if we coloured with confidence and painted with passion and purpose within the parameters of our lives?

I'm not sure, but I'm willing to try. How about you?

I've just started on a journey of writing brave and free as Holy Spirit inspiration comes.

To find out why and how, you can check out this post.

I'd love you to join me and share the way God is leading you too.