Seeing The Bigger Picture.

The church I attend has been running a stewardship campaign. Asking us to look at our giving to review the money we give to the church.
It’s left me feeling that I have very little to give and what I do give is not enough to make a difference.
Church for the last few weeks has been personally for me focusing on what I don’t have. It’s been a focus on my lack of income and my failure to give. It’s left me feeling guilty about the money I spend on ourselves. Wondering what else can I cut out of my life to give more to God.
I have associated stewardship with the sermons I have heard and the letters I have received about church budgets and lack of funds.
I have since come to understand that the fundamental principle of biblical stewardship is God owns everything, we are simply managers or administrators acting on his behalf.
Stewardships heart is deep in creation. Creation that God has entrusted to us with the understanding of God’s ownership of all.
I needed to see and hear the bigger picture look beyond the budgets to the way God connects everything we do with what God is doing in the world.

Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already.
– C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
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No Words.

Day 40 – Lent Challenge – Begin.

To the little person that asked so much of me, you changed my world.
My faith stated with a silent prayer, that screamed from my heart.

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Black Dog Called Depression.

Day 35 -Lent Challenge – Lead

This blog is acknowledging my life living with the Black dog called depression. The Black dog is not mine, it’s attached its self to my husband. It lives with us and is part of us. It’s real. That’s why it’s included in my 40 blogs.
I have written two stories, both true. For those that have not lived or cared for someone with depression, I hope this helps gives you some understanding as to what life can be like.

Recently some friends brought a puppy. It was a very much loved new member of their family. This golden ball of fluff arrived in their lives looking and acting like the perfect family pet.
He’s such a funny little character loved and enjoyed by everyone that visits them. When the family are at home he’s a joy. As soon they all get ready to leave him at home on his own things start to take a turn for the worse.
He gets anxious paces and makes funny noises. As the getting ready in the morning intensifies so does his levels of anxiety increase. Tension starts to rise between dog and owner.
When eventually they leave him in the quietness of the house he does what all young dogs do.
He’s chewed what he can. Pooed where he should not, and generally gets into terrible trouble.
The owners soon realise the dog’s behaviour cannot continue.They see their short-sightedness in buying a puppy and working full time. They love this dog and want to do all they can to relive its stress and anxiety. They arrange a dog sitter, friends and family help when they can. Dog sitting on evenings and on weekends so everyone had a good quality of life including the puppy. They consult an animal behaviourist. Learn signs of anxiety and take steps to eliminate them.They add routine to their day. Giving the puppy space to explore and play.
They no longer fear coming home. They no longer dread opening the front door.
They never blamed the dog for its behaviour they understood the reasons behind the behaviour and addressed them.

Reading the above story nothing surprises us. We know and understand that leaving a puppy alone for long periods of time is not good for dog or owner. With love time and patience they grow up and become the family pet we hoped and dreamed of.

I am going to tell you the story of the Black dog ( depression ) that lives with us.

24 years ago I feel deeply in love and married my husband. I walked down the aisle a young bride looking forward to married life. We looked the perfect couple. Young happy and in love.
The Black dog ( depression ) joined our family- it becomes attached to my husband. To start with it was more of a nuisance than a problem. With a few simple changes, it was manageable.
We learned to live with it. As we got older the dog grew up and got bigger. It would become a nuisance, causing embarrassment and upset.
It becomes so big that it forgets its manners, being rude, snapping and growling at all those who came near him/ us.
The tension in the house caused more snapping and growling. Going out without the dog become harder and harder.
We seek professional help. The Black dog refuses to go. The more tension I put on its lead. The more it bites and refuses to do even the basic tasks. The Black dog has imprisoned us in our own home. It refuses help. When the dog finally shows weakness, the help that we receive is difficult. The services are busy and overworked. They don’t have time to see past the growling. Each appointment we see someone new. This causes defence behaviour that looks aggressive.
Our friends stop visiting us. Why would they want to spend time with a dog that does not want to engage with them? A dog that does not wag it’s tail. A dog that does not play.
The hardest part for me is leaving the Black dog home alone with my husband. I fear what it will do. I fear it will take away my husband, that it will totally consume him to the point of no return. I fear its greed will be to much for my husband to cope with.
I fear opening the door. I dread coming home to the quietness of the house not knowing what it’s done when I am out.

The trouble with the Black dog it’s invisible. It’s not an imaginary dog it’s real. Because people don’t see it they fail to understand. I don’t blame them, but many blame and judge my husband. They see the behaviours but lack understanding.

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So how do I cope?
Pray
Prayer is my biggest way of coping. I pray when the Black dog is sleeping. I hold my husband first thing in the morning and pray. When it’s bedtime again I hold my husband and pray until God holds my exhausted words until sleep takes me too .
I pray that we can put a “lead” on the Black Dog. That it can be managed, disciplined and controlled.

Gratitude.
It’s being grateful for the little things and thanking God. It’s the littlest things that give hope; a hug, a smile, positive conversations.

Love .
Being honest and open to those that love us. That honesty also has to be respectful to my husband. I have friends that know and understand that life is hard. It’s so important for me to have a couple of special friends that I can trust. These friends are good listeners, they don’t judge. They love us and pray for us.

Feet planted firmly on love.

Day 29 – Lent challenge – Questions.

This blog is to my friend of 40 plus years.

Our lives have taken a similar paths. Life’s ups and downs have been shared and solved over many tears and evening walks together. We have seen challenges and problems we never imagined. My friend was always the adventurous one encouraging me to have a go, take risks.
A lot of that was down to our parenting . She was encouraged and allowed to take risks. Her parents would always remind us as we cycled of on an adventure that God would look after us – trust in the lord. My parents would give us the 3rd degree on not talking to strangers, not going to far on our own etc etc. We listened to neither cycled care free.
We both continued to ignore her parents views on faith and God. We learnt to disappear when the subject of our personal relationship with Jesus was the topic of conversation.
As we became adults they became more persistent in their longing for us to be saved. Family barbecues could if we where not careful turn into question time . Strong big uncomfortable questions. Questions that made you want to run, Questions that we could not and did not wish to engage with.
It started to become a family Joke. We talked about conversation rates. Learnt to change the subject when we were asked if we accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour ?
We did not understand why they did this. We certainly did not want a life with Jesus if this is how people behaved and acted.
My friend was often embarrassed and hurt. God to her was a problem that would not go away.
When my friend turned to her parents for help they in turn turned to scripture. They recited verses which to her that had no meaning. Words that where alien and seemed unkind. Words totally out of context to my friend. My friend was just looking for a hug some love an understanding.
My friend is told God is the answer to her grief and pain. A God that is just words to her and a God that causes her embarrassment and pain.

We still walk together about once a month. She has started to slowly ask questions about my faith. We talk about the children’s groups I help with at church. We have started sharing God together .
Some walks we are really chatty others we don’t even approach the subject. She leads and I share.
Friendship and Gods love has to be at the heart of my faith sharing. Meeting people where they are. Walking with them letting them in their own time and space ask questions.
I long for my friend to see the God that resides in my heart. The God of love, the God that gives great big hugs when you need them. A God that takes nothing away from you just enhances and allows you to see things so differently. The God that has saved me because I asked to be saved. Not because someone told me it would be a good idea.

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Ephesians 3:17-19 The Message (MSG)
14-19 My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

A mother’s longing.

Day 22 – Lent challenge – Longing.

Today’s blog is for a family broken and destroyed by a mother’s longing to have a 2nd child. They had very little support and life spiralled out of control.
Pregnancy loss, miscarriage, grief, still birth are all words that consumed my friend. They become her everything and in doing so cost her everything including her own life.
I spent a lot of my time as a child and young adult with this family. Being alongside them, caring for their daughter as they battled with grief and loss. When the second child they longed for was born post natal depression took away the joy and the happiness of bringing home their miracle baby.
Unknown to me at that time, pregnancy loss and that longing would not be stranger to me either. I too would experience that deep personal lonely pain when your baby dies.
I remember one day feeling totally consumed, grieving by yet another miscarriage. I asked myself why aren’t you satisfied with one daughter? Why is one child not enough for you? Through my tears grief and pain I thought of my friend and her family. Her daughter and son growing up without a mother, a husband without a wife. It made me realise that this last loss threatened to totally overwhelm me. That repetitive loss snowballing the pain into something bigger than ever before. It was affecting my ability to be a mother to our child.
I started to think that I should look at what’s in front of me rather than what I longed for.
The reality of a pregnancy that would last more than 12 weeks was now only a very dim hope.

Tomorrow is mother’s day and this family will be in my thoughts and prayers.
This mother’s day our church is having a mother’s day runway service. It’s is the first year that I have a space to acknowledge my babies on mother’s day. A safe space to grieve to runaway from the flowers and the smiling mums. To be with people that find mother’s day hard for whatever reason.
The hour long service will include liturgy, poetry, music and stories acknowledging the bittersweet emotions surrounding Mothering Sunday. It’s a space to hold and be still, share my pain and the pain of others with God. Inviting the God who loves us into our stories of struggle.

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Psalm 40:1-3  The Message (MSG)
1-3 I waited and waited and waited for God.
At last he looked; finally he listened.
He lifted me out of the ditch,
pulled me from deep mud.
He stood me up on a solid rock
to make sure I wouldn’t slip.
He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,
a praise-song to our God.
More and more people are seeing this:
they enter the mystery,
abandoning themselves to God

Celebrating love.

Day 17 – Lent challenge – celebrate.
This blog is for my husband.
Twenty four years ago we stepped out of the church and into the world as husband and wife. We honestly had no idea what life would bring us. We just had hopes and dreams.
It’s been tougher than I ever imagined. The truth is marriage is hard work. Both of us have felt more pain than we ever knew was possible, more deep joy than we ever realised existed.
Our love has changed over time but it’s never gone. 
I have loved when I did not feel loved. Been so scared I could not function. Cried tears of pure joy and tears of my own making.
Our hearts have been broken by love, soothed and healed by love.
All the things I loved about him when we were dating I still love. His sense of humour, honesty and the way he makes me laugh. There’s often a right way and a wrong way or a different way to do something. I normally head full on towards the difficult way. The path with most resistance.
I will crash through brambles wade through rivers. Often repeating the journey to put right my mistakes.
My other half will get out a map out and plan. But he follows me silently though the mud and brambles, I love him for that. We are opposites and he is annoying normally right.
We are both discovering and learning what it means to be loved by God. Sharing God in our lives has been something I never ever thought we would do.
I have seen a side to my beautiful man that I never saw before. Jesus unites us in our thoughts and he is our standing with us.
Celebrating love, marriage and that God reaches us all in different ways.

Ruth 1:16-17 The Message (MSG)
16-17 But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!”

Brief encounter with love.

Day 13 – Lent challenge 2018 – refresh .
My Auntie K keeps coming to mind when I think about faith and the word refresh.
I think it has something to do with how real she was to herself and God.
She recorded her thoughts and prayers in dairies. The two diaries in my possession record the wars years 1939 -1940. She records air raids, birthdays, the church services she attended with her mum (my great grandmother).
She also tells her another story. Her brief encounter with love. Her life becomes increasingly complicated because of falling in love with a man that was not hers to love. They meet secretly, fell in love, bringing about unexpected consequences.
Her scribbles telling of the conflict in her mind. Concerned about the pain that she would or could cause others. She battles with her faith. She knows it must end.
She acknowledged the pain love caused. She worried her writings might be found. One diary entry tells how she must stop scribbling.
She wrote out prayers that asked for strength, she turned to scripture for guidance.

The old lady I loved struggled with life “messed up”. When we mess up, which we do and will, God loves us just the same.
Her scribbling provided her with a place to of load her thoughts and feelings. I treasure these diaries as her gift to me.
She tells me that when things go wrong it’s God we turn to. She tells me we mess up.
Theirs something in all of this about not denying who we are being real with God. In that realism we form a closer relationship with God.
When we give voice to our complaints, our worries, our bitterness, or our fears, we aren’t telling God anything he doesn’t already know. We are laying ourselves bare before him, holding nothing back, and asking him into our lives.

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Psalm 73 – Good News Translation
26  My mind and my body may grow weak,
but God is my strength;
he is all I ever need.