Surrender is easy…until it’s not!

I don’t know if anyone else does this but I actually started writing this post over a year ago. It’s been sitting in my drafts folder ever since. Sometimes I start writing something and it just feels too difficult to process so I end up leaving it. This one has been on my mind a lot lately so I figured that maybe it was time to finish it.

Being brought up in a Christian family I’ve spent my life aware of this concept of surrendering to God and happily singing songs like ‘All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give’. Surrender was never that difficult. I guess it’s not difficult to ‘surrender’ to what already feels like the best plan, to the things that you want for your life. Even when some things weren’t great there was always enough that was good to make it easy to trust that God would indeed work everything out for the best.

Surrender gets difficult when what you want and what God wants don’t seem to match or when things don’t work out the way you thought they would. When you pray for things that seem good but they just don’t turn out the way you thought they should. This is when surrendering to His will really becomes dying to self. And it’s hard. Really really hard.

I was thinking recently about how Jesus had to surrender to His Father’s will to go to the cross. It wasn’t what He wanted, He even asked God to take ‘this cup of suffering’ away from Him. At the thought of going through with God’s plan…

…he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. Luke 22:44

Even for the perfect man surrendering to God wasn’t easy.

I wrote this prayer almost 2 years ago now and it hasn’t always been easy to pray but it seems relevant to this post.

Lord, I want to follow you on the journey that you have mapped out for me. I want to travel light and leave behind all the baggage I have acquired that is not from you. I want to put aside all distractions and not be defined by them. Forgive me for allowing certain people and things to distract me more than they should. Please help me focus only on you and on the plan you have for me and the mission we are on together.

I don’t want to be slow to follow, reluctant to surrender, or unwilling to submit. I want to be humble and submit to You in every way.

I am ready to follow you Lord. Wherever you lead. I lay everything down at your feet that hinders me. I want to know you more God to understand your heart. To follow you wholeheartedly, not concerned about how others view me or in fear of man. Give me the strength and boldness Lord to run after you and your will, to speak your words and to pray in faith to see lives transformed.

I know that you have the power to work through me Lord. I thank you for the gifts that you have given me. Help me to have the boldness and the confidence in you to use them for your glory.

I love you Lord. Amen

There are still days that I find surrendering difficult but I take comfort in knowing that it wasn’t easy for Jesus either. (Not that I’m comparing the things I surrender to going to the cross.) I know God sees my heart. I know I can trust Him. I know there is always hope because He’s a good Father. I hope this encourages you too.

Cotton Wool

Cotton wool – I have a couple of friends who shudder at the thought of the stuff. They really can’t stand it. It makes their skin crawl just to think about it, never mind touch it. Anyway, I digress. This post is really nothing to do with cotton wool. It’s about my head, my brain or my thoughts. I don’t know really and that’s part of the difficulty.

Do you ever have one of those days when your head just feels like cotton wool or candy floss (cotton candy) or a tangled up ball of string? Like there’s something wrong with your brain and all your neural networks are connected up wrong? I’ve had quite a few days like that in the last couple of weeks (although I have to say I’m feeling better now on the whole) where there are so many thoughts jumbled up in my head that it sort of feels like I’m not thinking about anything. Do you ever get that? Maybe it’s just me? It’s like there’s so much going on that your brain just goes numb or shuts down but you know it’s not the same as having no thoughts because your head feels fuzzy and restless.

I don’t even know what to tell you about those thoughts because when they’re all jumbled up like that it’s hard to distinguish between them. I guess there are thoughts about work and family and friends and what various people I know are going through. Thoughts of the past and the present and the future and what my hopes and dreams were and are and what God wants to do with my life – assuming my life is still in some way useful to Him.

I’m not even really sure what I’m trying to say about this. Maybe I’m not really trying to say anything? I’m just trying to process what feels kinda confusing at times. I guess what I need in those times is peace of mind? A peace that passes understanding. So I don’t need to be able to work out my thoughts or make any sense of them but instead just allow His peace to bypass my understanding and fill my mind. Maybe it’s about trust again? I don’t need to have it all worked out or understand everything because my Papa God is in control and I can rest in that.

Maybe it’s Okay…

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As you know I’ve struggled a bit over the last few months and I know I’m not alone; there are lots of other people that I know who are hurting or struggling.  I often see the phrase ‘it’s okay to not be okay’ and it’s true – we shouldn’t have to hide our feelings or pretend that we’re ‘fine’.  (Of course it’s difficult sometimes because you don’t want to expose your hurts for just anyone to have a prod at.)  No one wants to be depressed or anxious or struggling but it happens and it’s real.  One of the things I teach the little ones in my classes is that it’s okay to feel what we might think of as ‘negative’ emotions – those are real feelings – it’s just that we need to learn how to manage them.  As adults sometimes it feels as though we have to be okay (or better) all the time; have it all together, put on a brave face for the world.  We have to be in control of our emotions.  Squashing those emotions down might work for a little while but eventually it just makes it even harder to cope.

By the way I’m doing a little better on the whole and making some progress.  I got some healing from stuff that I hadn’t even realised was affecting me since I was a kid and that’s made a bit of a difference.  I’ve also realised after talking to my counsellor that part of what I’ve been struggling with is losing/burying myself again so I need to change old habits and keep working on being myself.  I guess once you start exploring deep emotions there are lots of things to work through.

I’ve been listening to this song a bit recently (lyrics below) and the chorus stands out to me every time.  It’s so good to remember that even when I’m not feeling okay that my Papa is holding on to me and that He is in control of my whole life.  I don’t have to control everything or anything really, I can rest in Him when I’m not alright and allow Him to carry me through.

Maybe It’s Ok
by We Are Messengers

If I didn’t know what it hurt like to be broken
Then how would I know what it feels like to be whole
If I didn’t know what it cost like to be rejected
Then I wouldn’t know the joy of coming home

Maybe it’s ok if I’m not ok
‘Cause the One who holds the world is holding onto me
Maybe it’s all right if I’m not all right
‘Cause the One who holds the stars is holding my whole life

If I didn’t know what it looked like to be dirty
Then I wouldn’t know what it feels like to be clean
And if all of my shame hadn’t drove me to hide in the shadows
Then I wouldn’t know the beauty of being free

Maybe it’s ok if I’m not ok
‘Cause the One who holds the world is holding onto me
Maybe it’s all right if I’m not all right
‘Cause the One who holds the stars is holding my whole life

Father, let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done
Here in my heart as in Heaven
Father, let Your kingdom come, let Your will be done
Here in my heart as in Heaven, oh!

Maybe it’s ok if I’m not ok
‘Cause the One who holds the world is holding onto me
Maybe it’s all right if I’m not all right
‘Cause the One who holds the stars is holding my whole life

Now I’m alive in You
The best that I deserved
Now I’m alive and I can see You in everything
Maybe it’s ok if I’m not ok

 

Known

Known

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is what it means to be loved by God.
Timothy Keller

Isn’t this what everyone wants? To be fully known and loved in spite of your faults and failures. To be known and valued and loved for who you are.  It’s definitely what I want. That’s why the title attracted me to this devotional by Tauren Wells and that in turn lead me to this song.

I love these words:

Known
It’s so unusual it’s frightening

You see right through the mess inside me
And you call me out to pull me in
You tell me I can start again
And I don’t need to keep on hiding

I’m fully known and loved by You
You won’t let go no matter what I do
And it’s not one or the other
It’s hard truth and ridiculous grace
To be known fully known and loved by You
I’m fully known and loved by You

It’s so like You to keep pursuing
It’s so like me to go astray
But You guard my heart with Your truth
A kind of love that’s bullet proof
And I surrender to Your kindness

How real, how wide
How rich, how high is Your heart
I cannot find the reasons why
You give me so much

It’s so unusual it’s frightening
I’m fully known and loved by You

So the devotional was meant to last 5 days but it was a particularly good one and I couldn’t put it down so I finished it off in a couple of sessions.  I could relate to so much of what was said.  I’m going to quote quite a few chunks from it in this post as he’s much better with words than I am and I couldn’t put it any better.

He starts off by talking about the fact that so many of us hide who we really are.

I’ve come to the unfortunate realization that there is a version of Christianity that many of us have bought into that has trained us to be professional pretenders.

You know it’s not even deliberate sometimes but just that culturally we don’t open up, we don’t share our hearts, we’re not honest about the parts of life that suck.  When we’re asked how we are at church we don the ‘good Christian mask’ and tell everyone we’re fine or worse quote scriptures that really mean nothing to us since it’s not really where we’re at.  If you’ve been following my blog from my first post Who Am I Really? you’ll know that I’ve been there.

It’s funny ’cause at church last Sunday a woman I’d never spoken to before made a point of coming over to tell me that I was known and loved by God.  It sounds a bit trite when I just say it like that but it felt meaningful and made me emotional at the time.  I really needed that reassurance again.  Sometimes I wonder if all our professional pretending at church actually turns real people off and means they don’t hang about.  You know if you feel like you can’t live up to the level of perfectionism that many Christians seem to have or everything in your life doesn’t feel blessed or wonderful; when life is tough and you’re struggling – why would you hang around people who don’t get what that feels like?

Another thing that lady reminded me of is that God loved me before I did anything for Him and still loves me even if I’m doing nothing.  I’ve always been pretty active at church so I think maybe subconsciously it’s like I felt I was earning God’s love or something?  I know that’s ridiculous really, no one can do enough to earn God’s love.  I guess I’ve always been a ‘people pleaser’ and I really need to make sure I’m not projecting human expectations and characteristics on to God.  In the devotional I was reminded again that God loves us simply because we’re his kids, full stop.  We don’t need to DO anything.

I’m realizing that who we are known by trumps what we are known for. With God, we are not loved based on reputation; we are loved based on relationship.

Over the last year or so I’ve realised that so many relationships I’ve had at church have been very shallow.  Those people haven’t really known me and I haven’t known them either.  Neither have we really loved each other, if we had we’d have been in contact outside of church.  We’d have taken more than a passing interest in each other’s lives.  We’d have been there when we were needed and lifted each other up when we fell down.  It’s easy to have polite conversations on a Sunday and never go any deeper, never really care who comes or goes.  I don’t think that’s what I want in a church.  I want to be treated differently to that but I know I need to treat others differently too.

Relational poverty is one of the greatest challenges our culture faces today. These days we tend to have followers but not friends, likes but not love, comments but not conversations, crowds but not companions, churches but not communities. Our society has popularized a new kind of relational experience—one that gives us a broader network of ‘contacts’ but lessens the importance of having deep, meaningful connections with others. The priority on ‘I, me, mine’ has eclipsed any sense of ‘us, we, ours,’ and the result is that people feel more alone than ever before. Our time has been dubbed the ‘age of loneliness.’ In fact, it’s been estimated that one in five Americans suffer from chronic loneliness.

This is so sad but so true.  Too many of us are surrounded by people, people who are supposed to be our brothers and sisters, and yet we’re lonely.  There are too many people in our churches who have no real friends, people who are even sidelined by other Christians.  I don’t like it.  How can we change this?  I genuinely want to know.  Maybe in time I’ll get some inspiration on this but in the meantime I don’t have any answers so if you do please feel free to leave a comment.  As the song says ‘it’s so unusual it’s frightening’ but I’m so thankful that whatever I’ve done or not done I’m fully known and loved by my Papa, Abba, Father God.

Rollercoaster ride

This week has been a rollercoaster ride. It’s been fast. It’s had real highs and lows. Sometimes I’ve felt like I wanted to put on the brakes and sometimes I’ve felt like I just wanted to get off the train.

Some of the highs this week were my boy getting home from Spain (where he’d been on holiday for 10 days), catching up with various friends – for dinner (twice), a cuppa and even a trip to the spa. I’ve also had cuddles with my favourite baby, been electric karting and helped to organise a successful community fun day in my village.

Despite the highs it’s been a pretty low week emotionally too (maybe I can blame hormones for that, at least to some extent). At times my heart has been heavy and sad. Sometimes I’ve felt like if someone poked me the wrong way I’d shatter into a million tiny pieces. There have been a lot of tears. A few times I’ve felt like running away. On Wednesday morning before work I saw an advert for staff for a Disney cruise ship and wondered for a brief moment if that would be a good career move. Later that day I was driving past the fire station as an engine pulled out and thought about becoming a driver in the fire service (mind you if my skills at electric karting are anything to go by it’s probably not the best career choice for me 😝). In some of the sunnier moments this week I’ve felt a bit like just getting on a plane to somewhere hot and lying on a beach.

Thankfully in the last 24 hours or so my mood has started to lift but even through all of the highs and the lows the Father kept reassuring me that He was in control. Kept telling me He loved me and that I would be okay and that in spite of how things look He has a good plan for me. I guess it’s a bit like the rollercoaster again – someone else is in control and there are lots of highs and lows but at the end of the day the destination is good and you will be okay you just have to keep holding on.

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.