I love love love Christmas – especially in church! I love being able to come together with our tribe to celebrate the birth of Christ. But I also love how we get the opportunity to share that celebration with others who wouldn’t normally come to church.
Last Sunday evening we hosted our annual HOW “Christmas Worship Night” and it was so lovely sharing the experience with family and friends. There was so much love in one room!
It’s a busy time of year but the first thing in the calendar in our house will always be the church celebrations – everything else has to fit in around that.
This Sunday morning it’s all about the kids – they’ll be teaching us a thing or two about the stories behind the Worship of Christmas. I have so many awesome memories of Evie singing and dancing during past HOW Christmas celebrations but today I wanted to share with you one of the fab songs the kids will be performing this Sunday morning.
Pentatonix certainly know how to do Christmas so while our kids will be doing it a little different I’ve used their version of the song as it’s full of energy and it’s sure to put you in the Christmas mood.
If you don’t have anything else planned this Sunday morning, set the alarm and join us at 10:30am in Orby Drive!
I found this lovely Christmas song by the acapella group Pentatonix to share with you today. It captures all of the different aspects of Christmas – children playing, kisses under the mistletoe, stockings hanging and candles glowing. But in the bridge they really capture the most important aspect of Christmas for me….
The joy that fills our hearts
When we strip back everything else – one thing remains at Christmas. JOY. Even in the most difficult Christmases we can find joy.
The joy of being with loved ones, the joy of time off work and the joy of giving to others. No matter how big or small the gift is, – or even if it’s a free gift like our presence, we can find pure joy in giving to others.
“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ””
Acts 20:35 NIV
This Christmas wouldn’t it be great if that’s what we all focused on – giving to others?! Not looking for what we can get but what we can give!
To get you into the spirit of Christmas listen to today’s track and have a think about what Christmas really means to you.
I had a wee day off today – a complete 8am-4pm day to myself. After the crazy couple of weeks I’ve had (maybe crazy is the new norm?!) it was very much needed.
I attended a business breakfast this morning, met up with two Claire’s for two different “coffee” dates (I have about 6 Claire/Clare’s in my life and hubby always gets very confused which one I’m talking about) then I dandered through the shops in Belfast city centre picking up some Christmas gifts and treats before bringing my little window of freedom to a close by dropping in to our first choice nursery school open day. Normally when I head into Belfast I’m rushing or too conscious of ensuring the girls are close by and I don’t get the chance to really soak up the atmosphere and appreciate our city.
Maybe it’s because the focus of this morning’s business breakfast was the regeneration of Belfast, maybe it’s because our wee city is fighting back after the devastation of the fire at Bank Buildings in August and making a lot of effort to attract visitors or maybe God was trying to tell me something today….
You’re the God of this city
You’re the king of these people
You’re the lord of this nation
Just like our wee city is facing turmoil, uncertainty and a battle to be everything to everyone, so am I. When I started this blog, I promised to share the rough and the smooth, warts and all. The last few weeks have been tough… I’ve been working long hours to try and keep up with the workload in our office with an added stress of yet more job cuts looming over us. It feels like I’m constantly adding more plates into the spinning/juggling act but there are so many that I love to spin that I’m doing my best to prioritise while trying to continue with the enjoyable aspects of life; if I didn’t I’d go mad! I’ve missed bedtimes with the girls and some nights I can barely string two sentences together by the time I sit down on the sofa with hubby. ButGodhasaplan. Just as I listened to the panel talk this morning about the plan to develop Belfast, I need to focus on the future strategy and be confident that God has a plan to develop me. He can take the derelict land, the forgotten quarters and the disconnected areas and bring light, hope and peace…
You’re the light in this darkness
You’re the hope to the hopeless
You’re the peace to the restless
I know, just as the song says, greater things have yet to come – and with the help of my family, friends and God I can get through this difficult season knowing there are better times ahead…
“I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.”
Jeremiah 29:11 GW
I’m pretty sure a crazy busy life is just the norm for my wee family in our current season. It’s been a week of ups, downs, sickness, joy, laughs, tantrums, late nights in work, early mornings with wee birds and just all round banter and hectic busyness.
In recent weeks I’ve found myself turning to my faith more and more in the every day …
I’ve added some extra worship time to my drive to and from work with the help of Spotify and an aux cable in the car.
I turn to my bible and prayer throughout the day when I’m facing challenges. I’ve even started to remind myself that the Lord is with me by imagining his guiding and comforting hand on my shoulder during difficult meetings or situations.
It can be so easy to walk through the doors of the office at 8am and be pulled into the way of the world. I wish I could say that I don’t get sucked in by the negative attitude and behaviours of corporate life but I am trying my best not to – I’m challenging myself to seek out opportunities to share the love, kindness and compassion that Jesus taught. I’ve even started to think about some small side projects that might practically bring that attitude into the workplace and get Christians in the office environment thinking about how we can encourage and support each other.
I heard this song for the first time a few weeks ago and it keeps getting stuck in my head.
What a powerful message to remember if we are to build our lives on the teachings and foundation set out in the Lord’s word, even within the pressures of the modern age..
And I will build my life upon your love it is a firm foundation
And I will put my trust in you alone and I will not be shaken
I’ve spent a lot of time studying, researching and praying about this week’s Worship Wednesday. I’ve really felt the Lord speak to me in a big way this last week and I wanted to find a way of sharing that but I struggled to find the right worship track. If I’m honest I’d actually got to the point where I was going to skip today’s post all together.
As we enjoyed a little Halloween fun with the family tonight I remembered a beautiful slightly Halloween themed track by Martina McBride. Not only is it a fab song, it also has a gorgeous video full of autumn leaves (my fave) and to be honest it really sums up what I want to share with you. The last couple of months I’ve been struggling with some stressful elements of life – I’ve prayed, turned to God’s word and talked to friends and family. That’s all helped and encouraged me greatly but I think I was waiting on a big profound “Hallelujah Amen” moment where my whole situation would turn around and everything would be brilliant. Those crazy miracle moments can and do happen but most of the time God uses the people we already have around us or with us to subtlely send a message to guide us or simply hold our hand as we fight through the storm.
These last few weeks I have found myself moved by comments from my little baby birds, chats with friends & family and also some random encounters with strangers – and I just know that God put the words in their mouth at that moment with a purpose to help me. God puts people in our paths at the right time with the right message when we need to hear it. That’s what this song I’m sharing today reminds us. I could write a very long list of times in my life when God’s will smacked me bang in the face when I least expected it – in the strangest or least predictable ways. He is constantly moving and positioning people and things ahead of time to ensure that everything is in place for his purpose and plan for your life to be fulfilled! Don’t ignore it!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”
Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT
The word SILENCE has a few different connotations for me – some positive, some negative!
“Silence” – with French pronunciation always reminds me of my first year French teacher! Our class loved to chat so she was always telling us to be quiet in a dramatic French accent.
In the crazy madness of life a walk in a peaceful silent forest or park sounds like bliss to me most days. How lovely it can be to escape the rat race and get out into the wild nature to relax and enjoy some fresh air.
Today I took myself off to a silent office to get some very important work done without interruptions. The silence helped me concentrate but boy was it lonely.
I love it when my girls cosy up on the sofa beside me, silently watching TV or reading a book (it doesn’t happen often but it’s so lovely when it does). Or when I’m putting them to bed and we cuddle in complete silence – I usually relax so much I doze off beside them.
About this time four years ago I remember facing a challenging personal situation in work and one of the things that really struck me was the silence of some people. Friends and colleagues who I would have expected to be supportive and reach out to check I was ok, didn’t bother – their silence really surprised me. On the other hand, and more positively, people who I would never have expected to care got in touch or stopped me in the corridor to offer support and kind words.
Silence can be such a good thing at times, there can be a calming side to it but it can be discouraging too. As C.S. Lewis put it best…
Spiteful words can hurt your feelings but silence breaks your heart.
I get it! As I grow older I seem to find myself dwelling more on the silences rather than nasty words that are thrown at me. I think it’s because if I have a disagreement or face a challenging relationship I can talk it through (I’m a talker incase you hadn’t realised) with someone else to understand the motive or the intent and then move on. But silence, well it drives me slowly crazy as I never know if it’s an intentional snub or not. I don’t discuss it most of the time as I don’t want to sound paranoid or insecure when maybe it was just because someone was too busy with their own life to care about what is going on with mine.
I’ve been sharing on this blog for over a year now and I’ve been privately reflecting lately on a few different aspects of my journey. I can say hand on heart if I was doing this for likes, reactions or comments I would have given up a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect so human nature does kick in and sometimes I get a little discouraged when I pour my heart and soul into a post that doesn’t result in a lot of engagement – silence. And equally, when I get a random message from someone unexpected to say they were encouraged or really liked a post that does give me a wee boost.
I remember not long after I started the blog someone asked me how many followers or subscribers I had. I wasn’t sure, as for me that didn’t matter, I wasn’t keeping a tally – because sometimes in life there’s a word or a story or a person that touches your heart and they never know that they made an impact. I can look back on the last year and know that in the silences there was only one voice that really mattered to me – the voice that spoke to me and through me – the voice that reassured me that this was part of the plan, this is how, in my current season I can serve the Lord.
It’s been a wonderful learning experience for me and I’ve encouraged myself through the studies and research if nothing else. By putting my heart and life stories out there – sharing what matters to me and how I get through life I think I’ve become more focused on my purpose, more focused on what really matters in everything I do – turning hearts towards the King.
So if like me, you struggle with the silence, remember that there is an opinion and a voice that matters more than anyone’s silence. So much can be achieved if we focus on what we can do through and for God.
Embrace the quiet, embrace the stillness and trust in None but Jesus…
In the quiet, in the stillness
I know that You are God
In the secret of Your presence
I know there I am restored
That is the message I cling to and want to shout from the rooftops – so I’ll keep sharing in the hope that just one heart will be encouraged or interested in learning more about my Constant Friend and the benefit of a life with him by your side.
I’ve been toying with sharing this song for a while and as today is World Mental Health Day it seems fitting that I share it now.
The Bible commands us…
“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.”
Hebrews 13:1 NLT
What would the world look like if everyone obeyed this command?! If there was more love than hate – for ourselves, for others, in our school playgrounds our workplaces and our wider communities?! But that’s not the world we live in today is it? Hate is raising and it’s creating new anxieties, new fears and increasing the stresses in our lives.
I’m a chatty person, I like to get things off my chest and talk if I’ve a worry or something/someone is stressing me out. While, I always sing this song to myself with the word ‘Brother’, it is my reminder that I have a great bunch of “Sisters” who always make me feel that I can turn to them (on top of my fab family circle of course who are such a great source of strength for me) – and they’ll always remind me that I am strong enough to face life and the challenges it throws at me.
Lately, I have shared a little on this blog about how the challenges have really started to push me to my limits. I’ve shared about how I need my Constant Friend’s guidance and love to help me through the tough times and I am truly thankful for all the fab experiences he blesses me with.
But just because I put my trust in God’s promises 99% of the time doesn’t mean I don’t have a 1% wobble from time to time when I listen to the negative voice inside my head telling me that it’s all too much and that I’ll never measure up to who the world wants me to be.
When I had both my girls I remember the ‘baby blues’ hitting shortly after their birth but after a lot of tears and emotion it quickly passed. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for mothers who face so much worse through no fault of their own – I have so much respect for those who not only battle Post Natal Depression but who speak out about their experiences in order to encourage and provide hope for others.
Now as my girls get older I have started to notice my mental health declining a little. The same way in my younger years I was focused on ensuring I exercised and looked after my body (Not a lot of time for that now so I embrace my size 12/14 shape and get on with it!) I’m now having to think more about my mental health – it starts by loving me for who I am and appreciating the things I have achieved instead of focusing on my shortfalls. More practically it’s about taking time out for me, spending quality time with my wee family, scheduling catchups with my friends and meeting up with my church Tribe at HOW. Love really can lift me when I’m down – simply feeling loved and being with those I love can really shift my mood.
And if I feel like this, then I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one so it’s important to share with others and understand how they cope with life and the bumps in the road. I rely so heavily on my Constant Friend but sometimes you can’t beat a face or voice on the end of the phone and I know that God uses others to guide me and encourage me too because those people aren’t there by coincidence, they’re there for a reason with a purpose and he has it all planned out.
But it’s not that easy for everyone and in different situations/environments it can feel like you are all alone. So today I simply want to share this song to remind everyone that there will always be ‘Brothers’ and ‘Sisters’ you can call on – they might be family members, friends, work colleagues, neighbours or they might even be strangers or acquaintances that you know have faced similar storms. Reach out to someone, let them be your lighthouse to guide you safely home…
Brother, I’m right here
And on those days
When the sky begins to fall
You’re the blood of my blood
We can get through it all
Fear you don’t own me
There ain’t no room in this story
How different would our lives be if this was our reaction to the fears we face everyday?
Fear of failure
Fear of disappointment and hurt
Fear of letting others down
Fear of making the wrong decision
Fear of being inadequate
Fear of losing someone
Fear of redundancy
Fear of standing up to the world
Fear of missing out
Fear of not meeting deadlines
Fear of what other people think of you
Fear of being a bad parent
But the Lord’s word tells us…
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love and sound judgement.”
2 Timothy 1:7
Did you catch that? He doesn’t want us to be owned by fear – he wants us to live the life he’s plotted out for us in all it’s fullness. We have to allow his power to work through us, while doing everything in love and trusting that the choices we make are good enough! We ARE good enough!
So as you listen to today’s track by Francesca Battistelli – think about the fears that are holding you back in any aspect of your life and don’t let them get comfortable, don’t allow them to control you. Stand up to them and tell there’s no room for them in your life because you want to pursue all of the promises that your Constant Friend has for you!
Thankful that I am mummy to two cuties who bring us so much joy – even if from time to time they give us sleepless nights and worries.
Thankful that I am blessed to be a wife and that I have my awesome hubby walking beside me, holding my hand on this crazy life journey.
Thankful to have both of my parents loving and supporting the four of us every day.
Thankful for loyal and kind friends who support me and encourage me every day.
Thankful to have a job that pays the bills and keeps a roof over our heads.
But mostly I’m thankful I woke up this morning!
I heard of the sad passing of a beautiful young mum at the weekend and while I didn’t know her personally it’s really shocked me and made me realise just how precious life is. So today I want to share this beautiful song that touched my heart with four powerful words…
“Only God knows why”
It’s the hardest thing for me to get my head around as I walk with Christ – angels being called too soon. This song paints a lovely picture of the angels singing and praising as they welcome another angel into heaven – what a scene that would be!
We may never understand why something happens or why we lose our loved ones when we do but if we live a life of faith and put our trust in our Constant Friend then we know that we will see them again at the throne.