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.

In His Image

I can’t believe I got all the way through January (and halfway into February) without posting anything. I guess it was a busy month – mostly with work and a week or so of being ill with a virus.  I’ve started quite a few posts but not quite managed to finish any of them.  Hopefully I’ll rectify that over the next few weeks.

I wanted to tell you about a creativity course I went on in the North of England near the beginning of the year.  It was called ‘In His Image׳.  It was basically about God as Creator and how each of us is creative because we are made in His image.  As you know, if you’ve read some of my previous posts, identity is something that has been on my mind a lot over the last year or more.  They said some interesting things about that that really resonated with me.  They talked about how God really likes the diversity of choices and opinions that his children have.  I totally believe that and yet I feel like we so often do everything we can to be the same as everyone else, to make the same choices and have the same opinions.  They also talked about the subconscious controls that come in as we become adults – we limit our choices and keep things battened down and in doing that suppress the true us.  I know I’ve done this with my life – tried to conform and be who I felt others expected me to be and lost the real me (I’ve been working on finding her again but it takes time).  They were encouraging everyone to find space to express themselves through creativity and in doing that let God get to us on the inside.

So we had the opportunity to try out various creative activities.  The first activity we (I went with my mum) tried was creative writing.  I guess that was kind of a safe option because I know I like to process by writing stuff and I know how to teach creative writing to children.  Having said that I’ve not really done much creative writing of my own in a long time.  What I produced probably ended up being more of a processing piece in the end again anyway but it was basically about hope.  Here’s what I wrote:

HOPE

“My HOPE is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”
Stone by stone and brick by brick it’s built and grows until I really believe it’s there
And there is HOPE.
Because of Jesus I have HOPE.
He took my sin and made me whole.
He is the one who holds my future.
He has a plan and a purpose for me.
HOPE is a foundation on which I can build
And He can build me up.
Hopelessness brought me to nothing.
Empty and torn. Broken and bruised.
But HOPE in Jesus brings light – a crack of light at the end of a dark tunnel.
It brings life – like a new flower opening its petals in the Springtime.
HOPE in Jesus brings fresh grace and strength
To get me through each day.
And not just get through but blossom and grow.
I need to let that little seed of HOPE take root.
Deep in my heart.
Take root and then split open to allow that tiny shoot to appear.
Pushing through the darkness.
It doesn’t take long before it reaches the surface and breaks through.
And then that little shoot starts to speak.
It is noticed by others and God uses its life, its journey,
To speak and bring healing to those who see it.
The journey, the growth, is painful at times
But as the shoot grows it gets stronger.
It is able to withstand the wind and the weather.
The plant blossoms and it thinks it’s made it.
It’s fully grown and developed but it’s not the end.
It’s only the beginning of a new season.
Petals fall off and in the winter season the plant doesn’t seem to be much use
For anything.
It just stands there
Weathering the storms.
Until
The Spring comes again and once more it blooms.
This time there are more blossoms
And God uses the plant to speak to even more people.
It is a new season.
Winter is not forgotten but it is gone and new life springs forth.
What is the purpose of the seasons?
Why can’t it always be Spring and Summer?
Why can’t the flowers always bloom?
God designed it this way for a reason.
In the storms strength comes.
Because of our pain we can empathise and help others.
He knows the bigger picture.
He sees the end from the beginning.
He sees the whole timeline of our lives with all the seasons and the ups and downs
And it makes sense to Him.
He knows there is HOPE because He can see the end.
He knows the joy that is set before us.
He has a good plan.
I put my HOPE and my trust in Him.

Hope turned into a bit of a theme for me that day, as you’ll see, and I decided to go to woodwork next.  My last experience of woodwork was at high school.  We had the same teacher for woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing.  I quite enjoyed ‘techy’ subjects and wanted to continue with technical drawing when I chose subjects to go on and do exams in (at the time I fancied being an architect).  The teacher was pretty old school and wouldn’t let me take the subject because I was ‘a girl’.  I don’t remember why I let him get away with that at the time.  It definitely wouldn’t wash now.

My first experience of woodwork is also quite memorable.  I was in Primary 1 (4 or 5 years old) and we were making ‘trains’.  Basically they were pieces of soft wood about 1″x2″ that we made a straight cut through and then cut at a 45 degree angle at one end to create an engine shape.  Then we coloured them in with felt tipped pens to look like trains.  It was actually pretty cool at that young age to be allowed to use a hand saw (just a little one).  Anyway at some point during the sawing (I don’t remember exactly when) I sawed right into my thumb.  I then felt sick and fainted 🤢  and my mum had to be called to take me home 😂..

Anyway back to the course.  So I learned a few things about woodwork.  I wanted to make the word HOPE out of wood.  They explained how to go about it and then let me loose with their tools – they’re brave!  I had to draw out a template and stick it to the wood using masking tape and glue.  Then I cut it out using a scroll saw and sanded and waxed it.  That was something new I learned – I always thought that lovely smooth, polished, almost velvety wood was a particular type of wood but they explained that it was down to the sanding and waxing which I think is pretty cool.  Am I a bit sad getting so into woodwork? 😂   Maybe I’ve found one of my creative things?

After I tried woodwork I only had an hour left of the practical session and I wanted to try needle felting.  It was fun too.  Is it worrying that I found the stabbing action quite therapeutic? 😂   Anyway I didn’t have time to do anything very detailed there but I managed to produce something I was quite happy with considering the time I had.

Since then I’ve done another couple of creative things.  I’ve completed a short online photography course which was really cool.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to practise a bit when the weather improves.  I’ve done a bit of sewing too.  I was making some blankets for my kids relaxation classes – I cheated really ’cause I actually bought some blankets and then just cut them in half and hemmed them again.  It was cheaper than buying the fabric to start from scratch though – crazy that huh?

Anyway I know I need to make space in my life for creativity and that could include this blog.  I just need to take some of my own advice and make time for this stuff.  Often the hardest thing – taking your own advice.

Apparently it’s a science!

Sorry I’ve been a bit quiet recently.  I actually started this post around four weeks ago now but it’s been a struggle to complete it.  It seems it’s difficult to write about something you’re not experiencing very much.  When I was on holiday in Tenerife I saw a plaque in one of those little shops that sell souvenirs.  It said:

‘If you choose to be happy no one can take it away from you.’

Well that got me thinking (as these things do) is that true?  I mean what is happiness anyway?  Happiness seems to have been just outside of my reach for a while.  Sometimes I feel at ease but there seems to be an underlying sadness pretty much all of the time.

I know I’m sad (pun intended) but I looked it up 😝  and the dictionary says that happiness is a state of pleasure or contentment.  I guess if you can choose to be content in every situation (that’s biblical right? – Phil 4:11) maybe no one can take happiness from you?  But pleasure??  Nope, I reckon that would be difficult (if not impossible) to maintain constantly, especially if you ever have anything to do with any other human beings.  People have a way of stealing your happiness at times.  I guess maybe we’re (or at least I’m) also good at throwing it away ourselves for some strange reason?

I recently discovered that you can actually do an online course called ‘The Science of Happiness’.  I was even considering signing up as I’m really interested to know what they have to say.  So if that’s true and happiness is a science that would be different from a choice and it would mean all the correct conditions have to be in place – I’m no scientist but I think that’s right.  One article I looked at talks about the 7 habits of happy people.  It says that you need:

  • someone you can share your heart with
  • to care for others in some way
  • to exercise and eat well
  • to find your flow (that’s a whole other post – if you want to know about flow look up Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
  • to engage with spirituality (faith?)
  • to find and use your strengths
  • to keep a positive mindset and show gratitude.

Well I reckon I’ve made a good start on a few of those but definitely have work to do on others.  So maybe that’s somewhere to begin – although I think some of them are harder than they sound.  Sharing your heart, for example, requires complete trust in another person, it means being sure that they see and know who you really are and love you with all your faults and failings.  That person can be hard to find and even when you find them it can be difficult to get enough of their time.

Back at the beginning of this summer we were working through a devotional as a family about choosing joy.  Honestly, some parts of it were better than others but while we were doing it we googled joy and found this definition on Theopedia which I really liked:

‘Joy is a state of mind and an orientation of the heart. It is a settled state of contentment, confidence and hope.’  Theopedia.com

Some definitions pretty much put joy down as great happiness but others (especially in Christian terms) highlight some differences between joy and happiness.  Some would argue that you can have joy even in really tough, painful times when you’re definitely not happy.  I guess for me having joy is about choosing to trust God, trusting that He is good all the time and has good plans for you – even when life is pretty crappy.  It’s about turning your heart towards Him and looking to Him for fulfilment rather than looking to people for that.  It’s about being content in the moment knowing that He is in control and will provide all that you need.  It’s about being confident that He has your best interests at heart and is able to accomplish everything that He has planned for you.  It’s about having hope in Him, not an airy-fairy wishful hope but a hope grounded in faith that He will come through on His promises to you.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Ps 16:11

I’m not suggesting it’s easy to stay in that mindset but in recent months I’ve definitely found my joy has come from spending time in His presence.  I honestly don’t know where else to go sometimes – when it feels like life is falling apart or just too much and you can’t go on in your own strength He is there waiting to pick you up and carry you through.  So in that sense I guess joy is a choice, a choice to turn towards God, and contentment will come from that choice too, if not pleasure.  Strength also comes from choosing joy (Neh 8:10). I suppose happiness may well be a science – maybe one day I’ll get all those conditions lined up and I can let you know.

In the meantime I guess I’ll keep on trying to choose joy and hope in Papa that happiness will follow.  It’s so difficult at times to trust completely – especially when I want His plans to line up with mine but I know He knows me and loves me better than anyone so I’ll keep trying to surrender to His plans and have confidence that He knows best.

IMG_5E4B275FEC29-1

The rainbow through the rain

It’s been another up and down week. It honestly felt like a battle.  A battle for my mind and my heart.  A battle between hope and despair.  I can’t explain why life feels so hard sometimes.  I’m just exhausted with it all.

Life goes on through the battles.  I had coffee with a friend, looked after baby B for an afternoon, sold my car, Skyped my cousin, binge watched the BBC series Bodyguard (which you should totally watch if you haven’t seen it), went to the local prayer group, worked (at school and on my business), visited a friend who’s been really ill, went out for dinner with friends from our street and for lunch at other friends’.  I like to keep busy I guess. The busy-ness also creates a distraction from the battles. Gives my head a break.

Saturday was the worst day.  I was really down.  Felt pretty hopeless.  At the worst point an old hymn was going round in my head.  I’m not normally into the more traditional hymns to be honest so it’s kinda strange that a couple of them have really spoken to me in the last few weeks.  I eventually got my guitar and started to play:

  1. O Love that will not let me go,
    I rest my weary soul in thee;
    I give thee back the life I owe,
    That in thine ocean depths its flow
    May richer, fuller be.
  2. O Light that foll’west all my way,
    I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
    My heart restores its borrowed ray,
    That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
    May brighter, fairer be.
  3. O Joy that seekest me through pain,
    I cannot close my heart to thee;
    I trace the rainbow through the rain,
    And feel the promise is not vain,
    That morn shall tearless be.
  4. O Cross that liftest up my head,
    I dare not ask to fly from thee;
    I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
    And from the ground there blossoms red
    Life that shall endless be.George Matheson, 1882

Even looking over those words now brings tears to my eyes.  Especially verse 3.  I guess it sums up how I feel.  Whatever I’m going through or have gone through He’s always been there, He hasn’t let me go and I can’t close my heart to Him.  Sometimes that very thing causes some of the pain.  It can be painful to let Him deal with my heart.  I just have to keep holding on and trusting that ‘morn shall tearless be.’

double rainbow
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