Thoughts & Ponderings

Be thankful? You can’t be serious!

We all face trials in life – no one is exempt, it happens to us all. Do you ever think…

Why me?

Why doesn’t God do something?

Why is God letting this happen to us?

Why does God let thousands die in earthquakes, tsunamis etc?

Sometimes we ask why because we’re upset with God. Sometimes people query why certain things happen if there is a God. Often people question if God is really all powerful.

God creates us and therefore has authority over us whether we like it or not. He is the highest authority and he actively rules over his people and all of his creation.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God – those whom he has called according to his plan. Romans 8:28 GWT

Did you catch the two most important words in that verse? ALL THINGS – not some things or the odd thing but ALL things. Every situation you find yourself in whether its a blessing or your worst nightmare – God can turn it for good. God is not the author of sin but he does permit others to sin against us and he does it for his purposes. Look at Joseph, in Genesis 37 we read how his brothers sold him as a slave and his life took a path he would never have expected. BUT, praise the Lord for the BUT, God works it all for good in the end…

Even though you planned evil against me, God planned good to come out of it. This was to keep many people alive, as he is doing now. Genesis 50:20 GWT

It is important to see good in every situation and to take the evil we experience and use if for good.

God also uses trials to test us for a definitive purpose. Deaths, illness, assaults or broken relationships – it might sound strange but these tests can be for his glory. In John 15 Jesus explains to us that he is the true vine and God takes care of the vineyard…

He removes every one of my branches that doesn’t produce fruit. He also prunes every branch that doesn’t produce fruit to make it produce more fruit. John 15: 2 GWT

God may be putting us through trials to prune us so that we may bear more fruit for his glory. God is the husbandman who cuts dead branches off and prunes back live branches for the purposes of the branch bearing more fruit. If a plant or tree could feel pain, having a branch chopped off would be agonisingly painful. In time, the branch will again produce beautiful flowering buds soon to turn to fruit. Trials often bring out the worst in us: anger, bitterness, fear, laziness, self-focus etc. But thankfully the worst is pruned off as God convicts us of our sin and helps us turn from sin to righteousness. The pain from God’s pruning will fade as the fruit of righteous flowers for all to see.

God gives us opportunities to see if our faith is proven to be genuine…

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7 NLT

It is easy to proclaim your faith from the rooftops and be charitable towards others when things are going our way, but how easy is it when you are grieving or your traumatised because your house just burned to the ground?

All trials, however great or small give us an ‘on the spot’ opportunity to prove who we really worship and service – our own comfort or our Lord?

Before I came to have a relationship with God I found funerals so sad – but shortly after I became a Christian I attended a funeral of my friend’s grandmother. They were a Christian family with a very strong belief in God’s promises and it really struck me how the family was rejoicing and celebrating a life well lived – the family knew God had called her home and they would see her again. What a comfort that promise was for them!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trails of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:2-3 NIV

PERSEVERANCE … tenacity – the original meaning of adhesiveness, as of glue, is a dogged and determined holding on. So being tried should make us even more determined – fighting against the easy option of giving up, don’t be quitters!

Since God has revealed through Scripture some of his purposes for trying and testing us, what then, is our obligation? Our obligation is to be grateful to God, to be fully persuaded of his goodness, and to realise how much he loves us.

Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

If you receive bad news; an unexpected bad report on a health check, the sudden death of a loved one or your spouse is leaving you, your emotions will be reeling. But while times are trying you must remind yourself of the goodness of God. Pray – thank you for letting me be so healthy until now, thank the Lord for having your loved one for so long. At the funeral I mentioned earlier my friend read Psalm 121…

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. Indeed the Protector Israel does not slumber or sleep. The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter by your side. The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all harm; he will protect your life. The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.

The Lord has a purpose for our lives – he has it all mapped out with a clear path and journey. We can’t possibly see or understand the plan but there is one – and we have to trust that he will protect us and be there every step of the way.

For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29:11 – I’ve read it hundreds of times but since the death of the celebrity Jade Goody ten years ago I’ve always associated that verse with her. Her illness and her final days were played out very publicly in the media and through her own writings. After she was diagnosed with cervical cancer she built a relationship with God and openly shared about her faith…

“I’ve always prayed but now I do find it helps. Maybe the big man upstairs thinks ‘She’s a tough cookie, she can handle this. She’s watched her dad inject heroin, watched her mum do crack, she’s lost a baby, had boyfriends who’ve hit her. Yeah she can handle this too. But I do think after this is over, God might think I’ve had more than my fair share to deal with.”

She went on Big Brother and other reality shows to find fame – she wanted everyone to know who she was. In the end her legacy and her life had a purpose far beyond anything she could have imagined. The publicity of her death at 27 prompted many to have cervical smears – saving many lives. The “Jade Goody effect” is talked about even today in the news, though sadly the next generation have missed that important message and now there is a worry that not enough woman are attending their appointments. She also saved souls – through her testimony, and the easy way she explained her faith many others have come to Christ. She christened her two young sons before she died and told them she would be watching them from heaven.

When she told her sons she was going to heaven one of them said “Heaven is a bad place, it’s where people go when they die.” She noted how she corrected him “No, that’s not right, it’s where sick people go to get better.” She went on to tell people how she had a version of the Bible which was easy to read – she looked through it when she was feeling down and it really helped her.

I remember weeping as I read the book she wrote in those final days – the strength of her belief in heaven and the afterlife played a big part in her being able to deal with leaving her loved ones behind. She hung on to life with her fingernails – she didn’t want to let go and she fought to the end to achieve something in this life. As painful as it was for her I like to think she would be so very proud of the legacy she left behind – she would never have chosen it but God knew exactly what he was doing from her coming to her going.

I wrote the majority of this post almost 10 years ago – Jade Goody was just a couple of years older than me so it made me sit up and notice the importance of living every day like it’s our last. I had a reminder of that again a couple of weeks ago when a beautiful lady (a friend of a friend) lost her battle with cancer – leaving behind five precious children. Our mutual friend said something so poignant – “she wouldn’t have wanted anyone to be sad…. she’ll be at peace in her new body”. It reminded me of these thoughts I’d shared with a ladies meeting all those years ago so I thought I would update it a little to share with you.

Sadly, life is short, we will bury friends and family, who in our opinion are called home to soon – we aren’t promised tomorrow. But isn’t that the message we need to hear? When God calls you, do you want to be able to say you achieved something, you left a legacy and you will some day see your loved ones again?

What are you putting off today that simply shouldn’t wait to tomorrow? Is God calling you to a new task? Is he calling you to make a difference in your world even in the middle of your battles? Or does he simply want you to accept that he is the way, the truth and the life? Always be thankful for each new day you are blessed with – whatever challenges it brings, whatever struggles you are facing, with each new day there will always be opportunities.

I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. John 10:10

Thoughts & Ponderings

Lest we forget

Tomorrow is of course Remembrance Sunday – a special day to remember lives lost, lives torn about by loss and lives changed forever by experiences on the battlefield.

There is always one word that overwhelms me on the 11th day of the 11th month – LOVE. Those who went to war did so for the love of their country and to protect those they loved – they sacrificed everything to serve. #LestWeForget

During the Great War & WW2 those left behind rallied together – there are so many tales of kindness amidst the heartbreak and loss. Children from the cities welcomed by countryside families they’d never met before, communities keeping spirits up during air raids with songs and neighbours digging through rubble in the hope they might rescue friends. The sacrifice and love wasn’t restricted to the battlefields – it was in the every day as well.

Where along the way did the world lose that love for their neighbours? When did we become a dog eat dog world that looks for what it can get instead of what it can give? When did it become every man (or woman) for themselves?!

Tomorrow as we proudly wear our poppies, let’s (as always) honour those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom but let’s not also forget how we can honour their memory by serving one another. Take some time to think about how we can love one another, how we can embrace the attitude of so many who were willing to give EVERYTHING.

“For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends.”
‭‭John‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Thoughts & Ponderings

Love Wins

I’ve always been a massive Carrie Underwood fan – I remember watching American Idol Season 4 with my Dad and being totally captivated by this beautiful bubbly country singer who wasn’t afraid of talking about her love for God.  In fact, I think it’s fair to say that her Some Hearts album played a pivotal role in the transformation of my heart that ultimately led me to the Lord.

A lot of her songs carry really powerful messages; Jesus Take the Wheel, Something in the Water, Temporary Home – the list goes on. But her latest single has blown me away and it is exactly what our broken, messed up world needs to hear…

I, I believe you and me are sisters and brothers
And I, I believe we’re made to be here for each other
And we’ll never fall if we walk hand in hand
Put a world that seems broken together again
Yeah I, I believe in the end love wins

Love is power, love is a smile
Love reaches out, love is the remedy
Love is the answer, love’s an open door
Love is the only thing worth fighting for

I only heard it for the first time yesterday but I couldn’t wait to share it and I hope it inspires or encourages someone who needs a reminder that Love Wins!

“Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense.

Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-5, 7‬ ‭TPT‬‬

 

 

 

Little life snippets, Thoughts & Ponderings

Be Extravagantly Generous

Last week, my big baby bird Evie decided to clear out her pyjamas – she is the Imelda Marcos of PJs! In the midst of her emotional strop about how some of her PJs didn’t fit her anymore I may have used the old Mummy guilt trip line “Well there are kids in Africa that would be glad to have one pair of pyjamas never mind seven!”. (Similar comments can be used when the kids try to waste food, complain about not having the newest version of a toy or when the Santa list is being prepared).

Well that certainly changed the mood and brought my usually very kind hearted 6 year old back down to earth with a bang. Next thing I knew we were discussing if we could or couldn’t ship PJs to India and how maybe we could organise a fundraiser for our friends at Angel House India so that the kids moving into the orphanage when it’s finished could have nice new pyjamas to wear. A week on, I’ve put the wheels in motion for some fundraising events (watch this space!) and the pile of PJs Evie has outgrown are doing my head in as they’re still lying in the same spot in the landing. But in a strange way, that pile of PJs has become my motivation to follow through with a little idea that was niggling in my head to what is now a crazy fun idea that I hope to share with you all in the very near future if we can pull it off!

Isn’t it funny how when you get something in your head the Lord keeps popping up as if to reinforce you’re on the right path?! The other evening I was watching wee Aimee Joy washing her face whilst wearing her new PJs and trainers that I picked up in Tescos for a wee bargain at the weekend when it struck me just how blessed my kids are to have what we see as basics but so many would consider luxury – but do my kids realise it? In a world obsessed with Kardashians can I convince my girls to consider looking for inspiration for life by reading about the work of Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom or the founder of the A21 Campaign, Christine Caine . I think that’s a challenge we should set ourselves as parents – to teach our children what is best summed up in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (MSG)…

Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage – to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

Then today, my wee chum Janet popped up and shared this short video update on Facebook from Angel House India (copy and paste link below into browser or go to our FB page for video) and I knew I just had to share it in the hope that it makes someone else think about how they can be even just a little generous (although extravagantly would be fab!) with what you have – whether it’s time, money, creativity or passion, can you help the team put the finishing touches on the orphanage?

https://www.facebook.com/janetraja/videos/10156454765170281/

 

 

Thoughts & Ponderings

Aspire to make a difference

I skipped Worship Wednesday last night due to a busy work day and rare date night with hubby. I’d grand ideas that I’d get the girls to bed tonight early and share a fab worship song with you all. But sometimes in life God steps in and we realise that he has better plans.

Bedtime wasn’t easy, I’ve only just had a wee snack as a late dinner and I didn’t know where to start! But our Constant Friend spoke to me in a way only he can. So instead of my thoughts on a worship song tonight I’m going to share with you an awesome message from Oscar winner Denzel Washington. It totally blew me away and I really would urge you to spare 8 and a half mins to hear what he has to say – it certainly gave me food for thought!

 

 

Little life snippets, Thoughts & Ponderings

Scars to Your Beautiful

So yesterday I kinda forgot it was Wednesday and missed my weekly WW post – oopsies. But that’s ok because today I want to share a Thursday Tune with you that isn’t a worship song.

I first heard this song back in the middle of May when we went to see my big baby bird perform in her end of year showcase with Vibe Academy. I’d never actually been to any of Evie’s classes because her auntie takes her an afternoon that I’m in work so I didn’t really know what to expect. Within 30 seconds of the show starting my eyes filled with tears and I was completely overwhelmed by how fantastic this dance school was. Their motto…

Instilling character and confidence into the lives of young people through dance, encouraging them to be true to themselves and passionate about their talents.

It wasn’t even Evie’s group that were dancing first! I had wee baby bird on my knee and luckily it was pitch black so I managed to hide my tears so no one thought I’d lost the plot.

As a kid I remember “auditioning” for P.E. squads, dance groups and sports teams – only the best got a spot. And while I wouldn’t say it upset me or impacted me much if I wasn’t picked, looking back it could have really affected some kids to tell them they weren’t good enough to be involved. But that’s not the Vibe Academy approach – each dance group had kids of all shapes, sizes and abilities. It really touched me that every single one of those kids had the spotlight on them, no one “put Baby in the corner” (sorry, Dirty Dancing reference) and they loved every second of it!

The showcase included all of the different age ranges from the Lurgan and Belfast classes and towards the end some of the older kids danced to this song I want to share today. My eyes filled up again watching the teenagers dance to this beautiful track with such a strong message.

Since May I’ve wondered what the song was and who sang it. Then last week when I was out for one of my walks it came on my random Spotify daily mix…

You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are
And you don’t have to change a thing

Wow! My biggest concern for my girls as they grow up is this world’s obsession with a completely unachievable image of what women should look like. Magazines, TV and social media are constantly throwing photos of celebs at us who have spent thousands of pounds to look how they do or who pay people to photo shop the paparazzi snaps to make sure they look a certain way so that the world loves them. As a kid I was bullied for my appearance – some of the boys in my year at school even had a nickname for me! (I’m not ready to share that one with you just yet) So I speak with experience when I say it’s not nice to be judged by our appearance, but in life it does happen.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could stop it from happening?! I’m a realist – we can’t wipe it out overnight but we can take baby steps and have an impact on our family, ministry, youth groups, dance classes etc. By preparing kids, the way my parents did – to help them have confidence in themselves and realise the true meaning of being beautiful, on the inside. Because ultimately our Constant Friend has no interest in how we look on the outside – he only cares about the state of our heart..

“Let your true beauty come from your inner personality, not a focus on the external. For lasting beauty comes from a gentle and peaceful spirit, which is precious in God’s sight and is much more important than the outward adornment of elaborate hair, jewelry, and fine clothes.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:3-4‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Don’t get me wrong, we should look after our bodies (good hygiene is important) and it’s lovely to get dolled up once in a while and put a nice dress on for a special occasion but it shouldn’t be our focus and priority. As the Word says, lasting beauty is more than slapping on some make up, sticking some product in your hair and getting that latest trendy treatment to impress the World!

Let’s teach our kids (and remind ourselves) that we are all loved unconditionally and to focus on having kind hearts and beautiful spirits first and foremost.

 

 

Little life snippets, Thoughts & Ponderings

Beauty Comes From Within

Every Saturday morning I have an internal debate with myself about whether or not I should wear make up or give my face a break. The answer usually depends on where I’m going and who I’ll be seeing – there is an unwritten acceptable list of people who I don’t mind seeing me bare faced (strangers surprisingly make this list!). This morning as I had the debate in my head about whether or not it was acceptable to drop Evie off to a birthday party bare faced I saw this really interesting article that shows celebrities without make up…

http://uk.businessinsider.com/actresses-no-makeup-photos-2018-1?op=0

I felt a mix of emotions as I scrolled through but mainly it made me a little cross – cross because the photos that are rammed down our throats every day in the media with make up are the ones that women everywhere (including me) measure themselves against and they’re not real life or attainable unless you spend two hours in makeup being pampered. The rare glimpse of bare faced celebrities is encouraging and gives us all food for thought but let’s face it we’re not likely to do it all the time unless the celebs start walking down the red carpets like that.

So today I want to share my bare face in the hope that others might do the same to encourage women everywhere to embrace their natural beauty that God has given them because let’s be honest, regardless of how much the world convinces us that we need to be caked in make up and hide every blemish we have – the Lord is very clear that beauty is more than the outward appearance. That’s something I admit I struggle with – especially when as a teen I was called names because of my appearance but my husband loves every inch of me and more importantly God loves me regardless so why should I really care what other people think?!

Instead of spending time trying out new beauty products to make me look as good as the celebs maybe I should be spending more time ensuring there is beauty within!

“Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

#BeautyComesFromWithin

Little life snippets, Thoughts & Ponderings

Sunday night thankfulness

Back to porridge tomorrow in the ACF house 😩 Big blue eyes has been off school for two weeks and the grown ups have been off work for a week – the little one isn’t going to know what’s hit her when mummy’s packing the car to go to nanny’s at 7:15am!

We really can’t complain though as we’ve had an absolutely smashing time off – we ate too much (mainly chocolate and bread), stayed in a stunning cottage using AirBnB for the first time (we’ve now made our second booking a little further afield for the summer) and had lots of fun and giggles with the girls making lots of memories.

I don’t think I’ve been this relaxed or chilled out for a long time – and I think part of it is down to the Count Your Blessings Challenge I followed with Christian Aid for Lent. Taking time every day to be thankful and appreciate the blessings really helps put life into perspective. Don’t get me wrong, every day I can find something to moan about and I probably do but thinking about how how fortunate I am compared to others can quickly snap me out of it. If you haven’t ever done anything like this before I really would encourage you to think about doing something similar in April or May as it really is a great eye opener and positive thinking tool – even consider doing it for just a week.

Right I’m off to sort lunches, pack clothes for the kiddies for tomorrow and set my alarm for 6:15am. So very thankful for the week we’ve had and I’m already trying to figure out how many days it is until our next week off. Without the tough working days I’m not sure we’d appreciate the time off just as much and we certainly wouldn’t be able to treat the girls to little breaks away so I suppose I should be thankful that I have a job to go to tomorrow! (Not sure I’ll find it a blessing at 8am but a lot of caffeine should help keep me going!)

I hope you all had a fab Easter too!

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Whatever happens, give thanks, because it is God’s will in Christ Jesus that you do this.”

‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:17-18‬ ‭GW‬

Little life snippets, Thoughts & Ponderings, Worship Wednesdays

This is Living

Oops! Sorry for the radio silence and late posting for Worship Wednesday – we’ll call it Thursday Tune this week!

Easter is my fave time of year – we had an awesome weekend at church. I am part of an amazing tribe at House of Worship and I am so blessed to be able to share such special celebrations with them – from our beautiful Good Friday communion service to our party to celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. Then me, hubby and the girls escaped to a remote cottage on the Lough in Co. Fermanagh for a few days and switched off.

Do you ever go to a concert or  a big event and people are so busy trying to capture the moment on their mobile phone that they actually forget to enjoy the moment? Don’t get me wrong, I love taking photos to document special events to remember in the future and I do post a lot of the photos on Facebook and Instagram to share with friends/family or so that when I’m looking for photos for an album or a personalised calendar I can log on and pull out my favourites. But I do sometimes find myself forgetting to live in the moment and make the memory first!

So this week I made a conscious decision to enjoy living the moment first and foremost – finding time for photos only if it seemed natural and it didn’t ruin the essence of the moment.  In doing this and really soaking up the beauty of God’s beautiful creation in the peace of our surroundings – it occurred to me that through Christ and our acceptance of him as our Saviour we are offered a whole other way of living. In the mad world of clashing priorities and challenges we face it can be difficult to remember what he offers us and how truly miraculous it is  – there’s nothing else like it and today’s Thursday Tune captures the amazing energy and unique qualities that a relationship with Jesus brings …

You lead the way, God You’re right beside me
In Your love I’m complete
There’s nothing like living with You
This life You created, I choose

See the sun now bursting through the clouds
Black and white turn to color all around
All is new, in the Savior I am found

This is living now

 

Thoughts & Ponderings

Happy Mother’s Day

Our final contributor for this week shared a beautifully honest account that I think many of us can relate to.

“When I think of Mothers Day I think, probably a bit differently than most, I think about rest! It’s a day when I decide that everything can wait. As mothers our minds never stop (whether it be worry or excitement). Our love never stops growing and our bodies never seem to stop moving. It can be so exhausting but we do it all because we love our children and want the best for them.

Lately God has taught me (through my exhaustion) that it’s ok to rest. In Mark 6:31 Jesus told his apostles:

“Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.”

He knew they hadn’t ate and that they needed rest. I don’t believe that God means for us to go hide in the cupboard for 5 mins (my kids always find me anyway). I believe He means for us to go to a place and spend quiet, peaceful time with Him. To forget about the worries or excitement on our minds. To forget about the dishes or washing for a while. To get our hearts and minds set on Him and then we can use the strength that He gives us to get through the rest of the day. Our children need wise mums and it’s wise to rest.”

Enjoy your day and try to take the opportunity to get some rest –  I’ve already been spoilt rotten with some lovely gifts, cuddles and yummy breakfast!