Watching my two princesses playing together as I try to steal a little time to write my last post of 2017 I can see how much they’ve grown in the last year. With every day that passes we see little changes but when we look back over a larger chunk of time we can see the true extent of their growth – my little baby is now big enough to climb on to the armchair, sofa and whatever else she fancies all by herself, she can boss her big sister around and communicate with words and her own little sounds. As for the big one – Evie B has really blossomed this past year and is growing fast both physically (she doesn’t get her skinny long legs from me that’s for sure), mentally and inside her beautiful heart that never ceases to amaze me with its kindness and love for everything and everyone.
Seeing how much they’ve grown made me think about my own journey of ‘growth‘. I can look back on this year and see occasions when I was challenged by situations I faced, encounters with people and by my own inner feelings & voice. Not all of them had negative outcomes – some of them have really helped me put life and my priorities into perspective.
A key turning point for me was definitely my experience at the Hillsong Colour Conference in London. It was a fantastic experience that I got to share with some very special friends – sisters. And of course, it was an added bonus getting a few days off mummy duties to just focus on my relationship with God and the plans he has for my life. It was sitting in that arena surrounded by thousands of women with one purpose that I realised God wanted me to do more – to use my talents and experiences to serve him MORE. But I certainly didn’t realise then just what an amazing journey I was embarking on as I stepped out in faith and launched A Constant Friend.
Although I have to admit, there were a few times I almost didn’t follow through with it as I worried about finding the right words, not having the time, being judged or laughed at – and I was a little anxious that what I had to share would simply not be enough. But the Lord spoke to me on a number of occasions and the same message kept coming through so it was my responsibility to take up the challenge and fight through those doubts and anxieties.
In July, I took ill with shingles and quickly realised that I was trying to do too much and needed to re-evaluate my priorities and routine (this also made me wonder if I really had it in me to launch the blog and maintain it) . I’d felt really tired for a week or two and I didn’t listen to my body – in fact I ordered new vitamins to try and push through the exhaustion. The Lord, of course, knew that I needed a break but it would take something very visible and painful to stop me – I wasn’t just going to rest due to tiredness. And so it hit me the week Evie finished school for summer. I am blessed with a great family and friends who rallied round to muck in with the house and the kids and who made me realise how loved and supported I was. It reminded me that it’s ok to ask for help – we can’t do it all!
I’d been so focused on being everything to everyone that I was doing too much and totally over-stretching myself. So I rested and listened to what God was telling me. Quite ironically I had read a couple of books earlier in the year which I revisited to help me as I tried to find a slightly different outlook on life. Both are great reads and really blessed me as I struggled with how to prioritise the demands of life and consider saying “no” sometimes – they were The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst and Overextended and Loving Most of It by Lisa Harper (who had been one of the speakers at Colour Conference). I would highly recommend both of them.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with workplace conflict and personality clashes – they stress me out and I tend to worry if someone is being difficult with me or making me feel inadequate. Office politics can be hard to handle – I just want to do my job to the best of my ability and come home to my wee family each evening.
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Colossians 3:23 (GWT)
Until this year I struggled a little with how to bring my faith and Christian outlook into those situations. There are thousands (if not millions) of leadership books with strategies and models to use in every situation but until now I hadn’t been inspired by any that really bring God’s principles until the work place. That is until I discovered a fab book called Love Works by Joel Manby – it’s a leadership book based around the principles of 1 Corinthians 13 and it has totally revolutionised how I look at issues in the work place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive enough to think the answers to all my problems will be waiting on me in a book (trust me I’ve read my fair share of parenting books and I’m still baffled) but the Lord uses his servants to share their experiences and draw out snippets from the Bible to help us find the lessons captured within those 66 books that were given to us as the foundation of our relationship with him.
2017 was also a year of blossoming and growing friendships. I have been very blessed with new chums and have connected with longer term friends in a new way. I am super excited for what 2018 holds and look forward to making more memories with all my chums.
A sweet friendship refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27:9
Of course, with every season comes change and I’ve also seen people who were part of my life in 2017 move on. I’m a real believer that God places people in your life for a reason but there’s no guarantee they’ll be there for ever. In the past I would have dwelt on change and fried my brain trying to figure it all out but as my trust in the Lord and his bigger plan has grown (there’s that word again) the less I worry and the more I accept things as they are when I know his hand and eye is on the sparrow.
I’ll be honest I didn’t sit down at the beginning of 2017 and plan out how I was going to GROW – and until I reflected as the new year arrived I didn’t realise I had grown. Just like when I look at my girls playing and having fun I don’t realise just how much taller they are or how much longer their hair is. It’s only when I look back at the photos from this time last year or during the summer that I can see just how far they’ve come and how much they’ve blossomed.
So why am I sharing this today? Because maybe you’re too busy looking at the negatives of 2017 and you’re glad to see the back of it but it’s important we really appreciate how far we’ve come and how the challenges and experiences of life shape us and help us grow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means perfect, there are things I look back on and wonder if I handled them right and I still have my weaknesses that need focus – but I genuinely feel by fixing my eyes on God and knowing that he is my constant friend walking beside me I can take on the world.
He doesn’t love me any more in 2018 than he did in 2017 – but I think I’ve grown to love myself a little more and I better understand how my relationship with the Lord can strengthen me. And in return I’ll continue to share his love and grace with as many of you as I can reach in 2018…
Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim his truth…. when you proclaim his truth in everyday speech, you’re letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience his presence with you.
1 Corinthians 14:1-3 MSG