Reflections on 2018

2018 Reflections

What a year it’s been.  Without a doubt the most challenging of my life so far.  There have been ups and downs but definitely more downs.  There has been struggle and loss and periods of calm in the storms.  You’ve been through a lot of that with me – thank you for that.  You know even though it’s been so hard and I’ve made mistakes I’m not sure which bits I would change.  Sometimes I think God uses the really tough stuff in our lives to prepare us and change us into what he needs us to be.  I was reflecting the other day on what I had learned and what I was grateful for even in all the difficulties.

Some things I have learned:

  • It’s okay to be me – in fact it’s better to be me than to wear a mask – even though it’s sometimes the more difficult option.
  • There are some genuinely loving and non-judgemental people in the world (and in the church).
  • Asking questions and taking an interest makes people feel loved and special (sounds obvious huh?).
  • I can be brave and step out of my comfort zone.
  • Writing – this blog and other things – really helps me process.

Some things I am grateful for:

  • My two amazing kids who somehow are still strong in their faith and confident in themselves and kind and thoughtful and loving.
  • That my Papa never ever leaves me and that He carries me through even the most difficult times.
  • My friends and family members who have stuck with me through all the ups and downs and who genuinely want what’s best for me without an agenda.
  • God loves me just because I’m His kid and not because of anything I did or didn’t do.
  • I’m still here and getting stronger.

It would be very convenient if I could say that all the challenges of this year were neatly tied up and the struggles were over ready to start the new year with a clean slate but that’s not the reality.  Really January 1st is just another day.  There are still struggles and challenges to overcome and difficulties to deal with.  One thing is certain though – Papa will be right beside me in it all.  He’s always there, carrying me through.

As this new year comes in what I’m working on is shifting my focus.  Trying to stop thinking about my own struggles so much and instead thinking about how I can be a blessing and an encouragement to others.  I’m pretty sure I will need reminded of this as it can be easy to slip back into overthinking and maybe even self-pity.  I’m thinking of making it my mission to bless as many people as I can every day.  I’m not sure what that will look like yet but I guess if I can do something to help even one person have a slightly better day that would be a good thing.

I hope and pray for all of you reading this that 2019 will be better than 2018 (whether it was a good year or not), that God will bless you and prosper you in every way, that you will have good health and love and peace and fun.  That every day will bring joy and revelations and new adventures as you journey with Papa and grow in faith and love.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

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Unless you become like little children…

Do you ever get weeks that just seem to fly in? It happens to me all the time. I get really busy and barely have time to stop and breathe or notice life passing by. It’s been one of those weeks. The good thing is that being busy stops you from getting caught up in your own head and overthinking things. So what has happened since I last blogged?

Well the first thing was helping with the summer holiday club in my village. It was so refreshing to be involved with little ones again. I had the group of 4 and 5 year olds who were just getting ready to start school. They were so sweet. I just love the way little ones trust. They seem to see people pretty quickly and decide who they trust and who they don’t in a very short space of time. It was lovely when they came back on the second night and were giving me hugs – as if they’d known me for years. Little kids always remind me that we should come to our Heavenly Father like that. We know he’s good and we trust him so we should run into his arms at every opportunity, whether things are going well or we’re feeling sad. He’s longing to just hold us and love us. The other great thing about holiday clubs is just getting to be a bit daft, singing and dancing and jumping about with the kids and getting away with it; although I have to admit I didn’t always feel like it last week.

I also had a couple of ‘baby dates’ with my favourite 8 month old again in the last week. He’s into everything now. So alert and active. I’m sure he’s going to be walking very soon. He’s already pulling himself up and walking round the furniture. He was doing this cute fake cough that was making me laugh and today he was blowing kisses and dancing on all fours – so cute. And lots of cuddles of course – I love baby cuddles! Our friends came over on Saturday with their three adopted children. They love lots of attention but I can see such a difference in them since they moved to their forever home just over two years ago now. So good to know that those wee lives have been transformed.

Then Sunday was my daughter’s 23rd birthday!! I can’t believe it. I’m not old enough to have a 23 year old. And I’m definitely not mature enough or wise enough! I’m so proud of the young people my kids have become. When they were little I used to sneak into their room every night before I went to bed and pray over them. I always prayed that they would grow into a young man and woman of God and He has answered that prayer. It’s an amazing blessing. There was a time (especially when my son was a teenager) when it looked unlikely that he’d keep following Jesus but somehow God has kept him and I’m so grateful for that.

Going back to work on Monday after the summer break was something I’d hoped wasn’t going to happen and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to. It turned out to be a good thing though. It gave me some sort of normality and routine back in my life which made everything seem less intense. It was good to be around some of my friends too. And of course going back to work means there are more kids in my life again which is definitely a good thing for me. I know they’re hard work, don’t get me wrong, but you can learn so much from them and they’re so real and honest. On the whole they live in the moment and take time to appreciate what’s around them. I know I found that much easier as a child. They also have great imaginations, which leads me to the next part of my week.

On Tuesday evening we decided to go and see ‘I Can Only Imagine’. Wow! What a great story. I must confess to tears streaming down my face in the cinema. There were so many things in the movie that I could relate to even though Bart’s childhood was nothing like mine. The idea of music getting you through tough times is so familiar. Music also reminds you of good times of course. I was thinking that at some point I must do a playlist of the songs that have been meaningful for me this year. There are so many. Some I’ve mentioned before. Since going to the movie I’ve been practising a few MercyMe ones: I Can Only Imagine (of course), Greater and Even If. Playing guitar and singing has definitely been a lifeline for me this year. Now I’m wishing I’d made a note of other things that stood out to me in the movie cause my mind has gone blank and I can’t remember what I was thinking of at the time. 😝

So I guess this post has really just been a snapshot of my week. Hopefully I’ll have something more inspiring to share soon. Until then I hope you’ll run into the arms of your heavenly Daddy more often and remember that he loves you unconditionally and has great plans for you.

Overwhelmed

Some days just suck. Lots of days right now. I feel overwhelmed. Too much is sad and difficult and depressing. Sometimes I feel like there is nowhere safe to turn. It would be so easy to hide under my duvet for the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself. Or to run away, escape from it all.

Then I remember about the people who would be devastated if I did that.

So much is changing in my life right now. It’s hard to deal with it all. My kids have grown up. One is about to leave for Australia for a year. The other could leave at any time if she gets moved with work or decides to get her own place. My closest friend isn’t around. Family relationships are strained. My husband is out of work. I’m trying to start a new business. And then there’s the normal run of the mill stuff that just needs done every day or every week so we can survive.

When it all gets too much I just want a friend to turn to. Someone safe, who’s not too busy or too judgemental. Who won’t be hurt by what I need to get off my chest. Someone who knows me, knows that I’m broken and flawed but loves me anyway. Someone who sees the good and the potential in me and encourages me to go for it.

It’s not always easy to find someone like that. On the other hand I know that Jesus is always with me. He’s always there to listen, never too busy even though he has the whole world to take care of. He’s never going to be surprised by what I tell him because he knows everything about me anyway and he loves me regardless. He’s not going to gossip about me or think less of me. He tells me he has put gifts and talents in me and encourages me to use them. He is a friend who is closer than a brother. A friend who was willing to die just so I could have a relationship with him. When I really really think about that I am still overwhelmed… by His love for me.

Who Am I Really?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about who I really am. You’d think I would know at 44 years old right?

I grew up in a loving Christian family and was a daughter, sister, friend, cousin and niece. I was a normal kid, did the right thing sometimes and the wrong thing at other times. I wasn’t the most popular kid at school but I had a small group of friends and never really found myself alone. Most people seemed to like me even if they thought I was a bit weird. I became a leader of sorts at a young age starting various kids groups and clubs from around 11 years old. I was actively involved in church from an early age – maybe ’cause my dad was the pastor.

In adulthood I quickly became wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, teacher and an active part of my church community. I took my responsibilities very seriously and did what I thought was expected of me. In the process of trying to be what I perceived was expected of me I lost myself somewhere along the way. I tried to live up to my labels and be ‘what it said on the tin’. Essentially I let the labels define me. I became so busy I didn’t realise I had no time just to be. In the ups and downs of life I tried to be a rock for everyone else and forgot that ‘no man is an island’. I wore a mask more often than not, keeping up the appearance of how life should be. I wasn’t consciously trying to deceive anyone, maybe it was my way of protecting myself and others. Who I am was swallowed up somehow and buried deep below the surface. The real me was suffocating and desperate to get out.

I guess you can’t go on like that forever. Eventually the mask slips and you are exposed. The good and the bad. And despite everything you have done and who you’ve been many people (not all) can’t get past the bad or at least that’s how it feels. The real me is torn. I’ve been desperate to get out of my cocoon and be myself but wearing a mask was easier in some ways. Hiding is easier. Not having to face people’s judgement. Being who they want you to be keeps everyone happy. It takes bravery to be myself – people will see my brokenness, they’ll know I’m not perfect. Some people won’t like who I am.

But I want to be me. God made me unique. He didn’t make me to conform. He made me fun and free. He made me creative and loving. He made me strong and safe. He made me beautiful. He made me a worshipping warrior and a leader. He made me to soar. God tells me this stuff and sometimes I find it hard to believe it about myself but I guess if he says it it must be true.

I often feel uncertain about who I am but I know who God says I am. There are loads of great songs about that around just now. I love ‘Who You Say I Am’ by Hillsongs and ‘You Say’ by Lauren Daigle. Despite the fact that I’m not perfect He says I’m His child and He loves me. He says I am chosen and I am free. He says I am enough and I am strong even when I don’t feel it. He says I belong, He has a place for me and He is for me.

On Saturday I found myself writing over and over ‘God is for me’. Almost like writing lines at school. Writing is one of the ways I process stuff. As I wrote it over and over God started filling in other stuff between my lines. God is for me – who can be against me. God is for me – it doesn’t matter what other people think of me. God is for me – it doesn’t matter what I think of myself. God is for me – I don’t have to fear the future. And more like that. It’s starting to sink in now. God is for me. God is for me. God is always for me. He likes who I am. He made me that way. He doesn’t want me to be someone else or to wear a mask cause he made me in his image. Instead of trying to be like other people or like who I think I should be I need to try to be more like Jesus.

I feel like this journey is gonna take a while. It’s gonna take all the courage I have to be myself again. I could do with a bunch of cheerleaders to encourage me to keep going. Maybe I’ll need to find some of them? I wonder if it’s just me or if anyone else out there feels like I do? If you’re reading this and you can relate I want to encourage you to be yourself. Be the awesome, amazing, beautiful person God created you to be. The other day I saw this on Facebook:

As the Steven Curtis Chapman song says ‘there’s no other masterpiece like you, You are the only one and only you.’

BE YOU!