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 poetryjoy.com 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.

Friday, 3 October 2014

It starts with the heart


How are things with you? I hope your week has gone well.

I've been dabbling in the mire and a behaving like a bit of an imp lately. 

Impatient. Impetuous. Impolite. You get the picture.

All mixed in with a heavy dose of frustration and irritability.

And worst of all? I've acted and reacted like this with my nearest and dearest.

My beloved has borne the brunt of my bad behaviour.

He quells me with his calm, stills me with his silence, and floors me with his ready forgiveness, faithfulness and love.

His generosity and grace make me want to amend my ways ~ quick-smart.

Anyone who thinks becoming sixty confers serene sainthood on one is sadly mistaken.

Having silver hair is no indicator of sagacity, nor senility for that matter.

Sadly, sin and shameful ways are the default mode of the human race.

We all need saving from ourselves.

Sure, we can all act good sometimes, with an alarming tendency to magnify our virtues and minimise our flaws.

And we do all that as we also turn our attention upon the perceived faults and failings of others with pin-point accuracy and accusation.

What happened to me this week? I left a door open for the enemy.

I allowed myself to become over-stretched, over-tired and overwhelmed. A sure-fire way to get stressed and upset.

That's all the invitation he needs. 

Your triggers may be very different but they need to be paid attention to. 

All areas of personal weakness require guarding by vigilance and prayer.

Is there a remedy? Oh, yes!

God has already provided all the mercy, forgiveness, restoration and renewal we need to change our behaviour.



It starts with the heart. The heart of God the Father in sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die and suffer on the cross in our place.

It starts with seeing how vulnerable and needy we really are.

It continues with daily dependence on His grace, with surrender, and a willingness to live the way He desires us to.

We lean and learn; we sow and grow; we believe and receive, we give and live as a new creation in Christ.

So how are my 'imps' doing?

They're looking a little subdued, a little less sure of themselves and a little less powerful than they were.

Further confession... when I began this '31 days of writing brave and free' exercise I envisaged gentle, Holy Spirit-prompted sharing of insights, prayers and poignant spiritual moments.

The reality? What I've been given so far is imperfect poetry and prose, a heavy dose of humility, a deeper heart-to-heart opening up and a greater revelation of my need of God. Who knew?

Heavenly Father,
May my confession strike a chord with someone. Use these words to help them see their need of you, to realise that there is no perfect Christian or easy walk of faith. Reassure them that they are far from alone with their struggles. Speak to their heart and mind to bring about the transformation they require and long for. Please open their eyes to your goodness and grace, mercy and forgiveness, and grant them the hope of seeing change as they surrender to your will and ways.
Amen

Monday, 29 September 2014

Doing it afraid


Fear is not my friend. I don't normally go seeking out trouble or looking to be brave.

As one who spent far too many years afraid of my own shadow and afraid of the grown-up world impinging itself too soon on body and mind, life is not an adrenaline-fuelled ride of adventure.

Courage has many faces and not all of them are obvious. They don't all shout their name.

Sometimes its the quiet ones going about their daily challenges and struggles with quavering hearts and wavering faith who are the brave people in God's eyes.

He sees into hearts and minds and knows how many are living lives of such quiet desperation where getting out of bed in the morning requires enormous effort of will, (and/or reserves from Him) before they dare place foot to floor and face another day.

Life is a battlefield and we overcome it first in our minds.

I'm not a natural risk taker. There have been enough battles in my life without looking for them.

But sometimes a clarion call sounds and we know that God is trying to urge us out of our comfort zones.

This is time to take action. The rewards will outweigh the demands being made on us.

No more cringing in corners. Suit up and get ready.

One person's challenge may be another's walk in the park but it loses none of its edginess for the one overcoming obstacles to achieve it.



I sense a call to surrender my pen, lay down my own writing goals and allow God to speak to me on a daily basis.. then write what I hear.

This is something I'm fairly familiar with on a regular basis. It's part and parcel of being a Christian poet and writer.

Only... daily, did you say? Gulp!! Yes... 31 days of listening and writing brave and free.

Relying totally on Holy Spirit inspiration, anointing and equipping for 31 days, though not necessarily consecutively.

The original yearly #31days writing challenge began over at the Nester's place. You can read the details here. 

To make matters manageable there are daily 5 minute writing prompts being offered over at Kate Montaung's place, rather like a continual Five Minute Friday exercise.

And Twitter already has daily poetic prompts to help stir the creative juices.

So far, so well and good. I love word prompt challenges and I love writing.

If my health was equally reliable then we'd be laughing, wouldn't we?

But that is far from the truth. I have had to cut back, withdraw and recover energy recently when life's busyness leached all my available strength. 

And that happens on a regular basis. More often than I like it to.

As an M.E and chronic illness sufferer I know that no two days are exactly the same yet all have their pitfalls of pain, profound fatigue and weakness to one degree or another.

How do I commit to this task without compromising my already weakened health?



By faith. By trust. By believing that all things are possible in Christ because who He appoints He anoints and who He calls He qualifies.

Am I sure? Well, I didn't lay down a fleece, but it took 4 separate times of checking in with the Lord before I was totally convinced this was a call from Him rather than a work and desire of the flesh. 

So here I am, doing it afraid and doing it with faith, for the two co-exist sometimes.

And there is a catch to this..  after checking in with God this morning, He confirmed I need to spend 31 days listening intently to Him but only write and share as He dictates.

God also reminded me of words I'd penned over at 'Poetry Joy' a few days ago:

"I don't want to write
just because
it is what 
I usually do
or because
I want to have a say
These words should come
because You
have thoughts You desire
me to convey"

My reasons for taking part need to be in line with His will for me. In a sense, I need to eat my own words above.

There's to be no noisy fanfare, no lovely linking up, no seeking of people-approval, no beautiful button to flaunt, no anxiety over daily sharing, just opening my heart when He makes it clear it's right to do so.

Because this isn't really about me at all; it's all about the work God needs to do in and through me.

Some posts will appear here and others over at my sister site, poetryjoy.com. Do take a look there too because small snippets more often come to me in poetry and 'Prayer Whispers' rather than prose.

I'd love you to join me for the journey as I take part informally (on an ad hoc basis) in my own slow way and timing. There is grace to participate and grace to 'fail' in others' eyes.

My fear stems from wondering if I can be fully attentive and listen well over this period of time, and if I can faithfully record the words I hear.

My failure would be to depend more on myself than I do on Holy Spirit's equipping.





And for those of you who pray, please send a prayer or two up for me, would you? Thank you!

I think this weary woman needs help to stay faithful and attentive in prayer, to listen, lean and learn all the lessons God wants to teach her.

Then I can share them over time and (hopefully) bless and encourage others in the process. 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Now we are six(ty)


When I was six years old, I had a brush with death. It began with a clumsy careering into sharp wooden armchair corners that split my head open.

There was a rush, hurry and flurry to get this child to hospital and stem the flow.

The chair came off better than me. I still have the scars to prove it.

Then, in the somnolent heat of summer, I blithely stepped out from the side of an ice-cream van parked just across the road from my home, my mouth watering in anticipation of the cool treat now starting to melt slow in my hot little hand, and I paused..

I'd been schooled in the Green Cross Code of 'Look left, look right, look left again' and if all was clear it was safe to cross the road. This time, with other things on my mind, I neglected the final glance left.

A speeding car caught me on its bumper and tossed me into the gutter like a discarded rag doll. 

My father heard a squeal of brakes and crunch of tires that sang out louder than the motor-racing he was viewing on the TV. He had some premonition of danger, so he hurtled from his armchair and out of the house.

He found me scrunched and curled like a foetal-curved comma, motionless, lips blue, body still and bloodied. Feared I was dead.

With his heart in his mouth and tears in his eyes, he gently scooped me up and held me close. Someone else must have rung for an ambulance, because he held fast as its siren rent the air, while the silent passers-by watched the scene unfold.

Thankfully, the outcome was much better than anticipated. My ability to flop sack-heavy onto a lap with limbs loose may have caused a parent to grumble, but it was what saved me from greater injury.

I sustained concussion, hypoxia, and a bad case of 'gravel rash' caused by being scraped along the road, with skin shredded raw as grated cheese threads. These wounds would require frequent dressings over the months ahead, but that was all.



Miraculously, there were no broken bones either. 

I was lucky.. or was it luck? With the hindsight of years and further experiences I see it differently.

My sixth year was also when my grandma died. We were considered too young to go to the funeral, but I had a savour of grown-up grief and solemnity, cushioned by plenty of tea, sandwiches and sympathy. A foretaste of funerals to come.

And as I grew older, I discovered how brief candle-like this life can be. Realised how we have a gift of time and years to use wisely.

When I was six life felt timeless, days were long and there was much still to discover.

And it does indeed stretch into an endless, eternal future with God by virtue of faith in Christ and His gift of new life.

'Now we are six' by A.A Milne
"When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new
When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more
When I was five I was barely alive
Now I am six I am clever as clever;
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever"

Now, I am no longer the little six year old girl whose body fell carelessly into sharp corners, crumpled death-like on impact, and whose favourite dress got ruined one warm and sunny Saturday afternoon.

Now, I am 60. Life has unfolded slow before my eyes yet with an alarming tendency to shorten as each year follows another. Who knew?

My limbs are stiff and ungainly from years of arthritis and M.E, unable to curl swift into a ball. These days I cannot run, hop, skip, jump or dance as I once did. Though my girl-child heart still longs to do so.



But I can sit and meditate. Reflect on how goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of this challenging life, even in the dark, hidden places where I thought I was alone.

My mind aware of the gift of new life Christ gave me when I was 17, and His hands extending through many a long year since as He pours out daily manna and grace for my soul. 

I can pray; I can read God's word, absorb its truth now lived out in experience.

I can write, bless and encourage others with the gift of words He gives me.

Have I become "clever as clever"? Probably not, though some see me as wise. But I think they simply see and hear the words of Jesus Himself as He speaks through me, sharing Friend to friend. 

As One who has companioned all my dying-living moments here and who will see me through to this world's end and into the beginning of the eternally new, Jesus has become everything to me.

And I see the years ahead (however long or short they may be) as further opportunity to get to know Him better, to love Him more and speak out His worth. 

One day soon I may write about the celebrations I have had, decide on a bucket/'Wish List' for the days to come, a year of yearnings, hopes and desires and dreams still dancing in my soul.

For now, I need a bit of time to think about being 60 and all it may mean to me, to be grateful for this gift of time, even as age and infirmity kicks brutal in my body.

Because I just might not have been so 'lucky' all those years ago... and these words may never have got written, nor this life lived out with my family and friends.

Neither would I have had all the experience of God's goodness and grace as the grown-up woman I am now. And that doesn't bear thinking about, somehow.

**How do you feel as you reflect back on your life? Can you see God's hand at work in everything? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.**