Thursday, 9 October 2008

Seeing a future

I am feeling so revived and excited about the future. It has been gloomy year for me where I feel like I can only see a few feet in front of me and my past calls me more than my future. But some seeds have been planted over the last few months which have helped me see that there are possibilites for my future that I never would have considered before.

I had forgotten what it felt like to feel truly excited about the future and free to plan for that future. I believe that it is a work of God in my life to redeem my pain and create a new hope. And what I find so exciting is that it is so unexpected and that gives me faith that no matter what I think about my life and what I believe is possible or impossible, God is active and I can put my hope in Him.

I promise to be back with a less cryptic update soon.

But in the meantime it is springtime in more ways than one!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Avoidance techniques

I am a bit of a procrastinator. Hence me writing this now rather than doing marking...Any way, I often procrastinate for emotional reasons. It is not as if the thing I am avoiding it even very bad or hard, but for some reason I have an emotional block about it. I just don't want to go there. Sometimes I do the same thing to God. I avoid Him because I have some feelings and thoughts I just don't want to deal with or own up to and because I have the feeling that He might expect me to deal with them and challenge me on my thinking. But every time I push through the desire to avoid I am so pleasantly suprised but how God transforms the situation, often just be helping me see it in a different way or reminding me that I can trust Him. I have a list as long as my arm of things I am avoiding dealing with right now and I just need the courage to own up to them.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

It's the little things

The little things which get me through the day and give me those little moments of joy which remind me of what life is supposed to be about:
having a great conversation
a hot cup of tea
picking veges from the garden
cuddling my cat
noticing the weather
cooking our own food
making silly jokes that go on and on and make me hysterical
unexpected mail
reading the bible and praying
writing in my journal
escaping into a tv programme which reminds me of what I truly care about
sleeping in and not regretting using my time better
giving the house a good clean and surveying the results
changing seasons

Thursday, 18 September 2008

When dreams go bad

I have been thinking about what to do when my plans and dreams do not happen. What do you do when the things you dream of do not happen when and how you want? What if they are things beyond your control?

I think there are two choices or ends of the continuum of reaction to this situation. At one end I could doggedly stick to the plan and the dream despite the fact that it continues to not be fulfilled in the hope that one day it will be. This could be viewed as a faithful and hopeful response, especially if you feel that the dream is one God has placed on your heart and in your mind.

However the risk is that this approach will result in the quiet creep of despair. I don't think the human heart can cope with continual disappointment if there is not something sustaining it in the wait for the dream to be fulfilled.

And this brings me to where I find myself. No matter what I dream of and hope for, my life must be meaningful and purposeful now. The tension of a hope not yet realised will always remain, but God is with me now, active in my life now, not just when I reach that hoped for moment or goal. So what am I going to do now to live out God's presence and reality in the place I find myself?

What do you do when you find yourself in a place you never wanted to arrive at with a set of experiences as your baggage which you would quite happily have lost in transit or never packed in the first place? For me I continue to wrestle with the fact that at the core of me I am changed and I can never be the same. I cannot switch off the part of me that stands before God, shocked to the core and traumatised by the reality and randomness of this world. But something new is emerging...

I have no plan anymore. I have no more delusions of control or security in the things of this world. No plan or job or success can protect any of us from loss and pain and tragedy. So I don't want to strive for those things any more.
Now all I want is meaning in my life. If life can throw such painful curve balls then I want every moment of my own life to be about the love and hope and faith which holds me together. I want to feel my life has purpose and meaning beyond just daily survival and going through the motions.

And so with no plan and with the realisation of the fragility of life there is a new freedom I am realising that I would have never known otherwise. My security is in following Jesus, clinging to him and living out what he places on my heart. Because nothing else has sustained me, healed me and held me together over the last year. Busyness, work, money and even friends and family cannot fill that cavernous hole. But God's miraclous love does seep into the parts of me which cannot be reached. The hole, the scars will always be there but God is making things new and his grace is bringing real and tangible hope into my hopelessness.

A woman I am priviledged to know had a breast removed due to cancer. Instead of breast reconstruction she had a tatoo of daisies placed along the line of the scar. There is no denying the scars, but beautiful things can grow. A new freedom can begin new dreams and plans and reorder my priorities so that life has a fullness of joy I never would have experienced otherwise.

May the Lord, who has begun a good work in me, see it to completion.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The little things

It is has been a long time. Lots of wrestling and hard things to accept and deal with. And I have been contemplating holding on. When things in life are not co-operating, when life seems disappointing and draining, what do you do?

Well what is working for me is doing the little things that I know are the right things to do and hanging on. So I have been reading my bible in the mornings, trying to do my best in my job, care for my husband and enjoy the blessings now. I am trying to use the gifts God has given me and generally wanting to live the life I know I should live but make lots of excuses not to.

I know that sounds like a lot of "shoulds". But to be perfectly honest, they are good and right things to do. So it is not a guilt trip, it is more that I know that God has shown me the things you can do in life that make things easier, that help me to walk in step with him, rather than fumbling and crawling around on my own. Living well now gives me hope and it is amazing how God has blessed my choices.

For example I have had people really encourage me and that has given me the confidence to consider what God may have for me in the future. That has been too scary to consider for a long time as my self confidence was so low. Also I feel like I am not in that awful rollercoaster of closeness with God for a few days and then distance just through lack of time spent together. I feel like I am learning and growing and that makes me feel that life is full of possibility. That despite suffering and struggles God is doing a good work in me.

So I pray that I can be a committed partner with God in doing the little things. And in doing that trully surrender the big things to His care. In a confusing and painful world that is where my hope is found.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Sadly lacking

I have been thinking hard about how I really was not prepared for being an adult. When I think back about the wisdom I gained growing up in Church a lot of the advice was about the amazing plans and purposes God has for me. However, not much was ever said about the pain of death and disappointment that all people will face at some time and I cannot remember hearing a sermon about how to wait and how to deal with not getting what you want in life.

And so here I am now, desperately trying to scrabble together a 'theology of death/pain/suffering' so that I can still cling to my faith. It is a little ironic that at a time when you truly need God, the pain of life's crushing experiences can shift Him so far from my grasp. To be frank, when I feel there is a plan and purpose to my life and things are going swimmingly I find it easy to see that my life makes sense and that God is involved. But when everything seems to be falling apart and the suffering seems to be without reason or purpose, it all just seems like a sad joke.

I wonder what would happen if young people in Church were told that God does have plans and purposes, but that pain and suffering will happen. There is no getting away from it. And that when you want something, no matter how righteous it may be, it may not happen for you. How would I have responded as a bright eyed and eternally optomistic 13 year old if someone told me that 'truth' at youth group?

I really don't know. I don't think I would have wanted to hear it. But right now I really wish someone had. I wish someone had taken the time to gently burst a few bubbles, or at least lay the foundation for how to cope when the reality of life makes itself known. I wish I had heard less testimonies about how the pain makes sense and more about the fact that it doesn't but I am still standing.

I used to dream about the day when I could give my testimony. I never really have before because I have never felt like my life was very inspiring or very interesting. But I have looked forward to the day when I could say how the pain I have experienced in life has shaped me and made me who I am. How it has meant I can fulfil God's purposes for me. But now I don't.
Now I want to be the person who stands up in Church and tells my story without trying to make it all make sense and honestly admits the pain and despair. But also that I am still standing, and that is a miracle in itself. I cannot accept that the pain in the world has a purpose. That is just too cruel. Instead maybe the hope is in facing that it is really there, and not trying to turn it into a simple 10 minute inspirational talk. It is life, it just is. And it is a hard pill to swallow sometimes.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Are you defined by what you say no to?

I was thinking about the Steinlager Pure advertisement which states that New Zealand's culture is defined by what we have said "No" to eg. nuclear power/weapons, GE etc.
I was thinking about whether my "No's" define me.
I think they do to a certain extent. But I would rather my Yes's did. I want to be defined by what I am for, rather than what I am against. If all I am is a bunch of disagreeing and avoiding and rejecting then what am I left with?
I want to be full of seeking and finding the good and the right and the pure. I want to say yes to hope and not just no to despair.
Yes to love and not just no to hate.
Saying no may be the first step but by saying yes to what I believe in it moves me out and takes me forward, rather than standing still surrounded by No's.

But I do find it easier to just say No. It is scarier to say Yes and let the No's take care of themselves. It breaks down the boundaries and removes false security and comforts. And I am all about security.

Yes, you wouldn't have thought it was so tricky.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

a word in season

I am so grateful for the friends God has blessed me with. When I am struggling and feel like my perspective is warped I am always amazed at how one of my friends will say just the right thing to help me to see my life with clearer vision. They are also often able to show me compassion and understanding when I can not show that to myself. They really do make Jesus' love for me real, even when He seems silent and distant.

I truly believe God has granted me many of my friends. Some I have met through the way God created me and the shared interests and experiences we have through those similarities. Others have been almost miraculous, a God set up. Such as making one of my dearest friends. Despite being in a university paper with more than 400 people, I ended up in a tutorial with her and by accident realised we had friends in common and the rest is history. Another friendship was born out of a camp and a horseriding fall. Some friends I have been blessed with through my marriage and even through the deep friendships my parents have and the children of their friends.

God knows how much I need others in my life to help me navigate a path. I am not an island, I need others and I thank God that the people He has put in my life are truly beautiful people who are owe a great deal for the wisdom and love they show me.

My friends show me God's hand in my life and His love for me. I hope I can do that for others.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Shock, horror

As a teacher I spend lots of time with teenagers. Recently I have realised how much more shocked and disturbed I am by the things they talk about and what they believe is okay. I had a chat with a few kids about bullying and they all thought it was wrong but believed they could do nothing about it. Other students I overhear talk about fights at the weekend, showing each other footage on their cellphones. I find all of this really upsetting.

Now I definitely don't believe that teenagers are bad or really any worse than previous generations and I am not naiive about what life is like for young people. But I still feel shocked and horrified at what these kids think life is all about.

I would like them to believe people are precious and life is sacred and that they should treat other people as they would like to be treated. I hate to think how adults have let these kids down by not showing them what it is like to be treated with respect and to be expected to show respect for others. I am so sad that these kids are already giving up on the values and hopes that young children are taught. I find it so disturbing that I stand at the front of a classroom talking about caring for one another and not using violence, when that is not what they are taught at home.

It is easy when shocked to distance myself, to want to run away to a 'nicer' place. Or the other option is to go numb, to apathetically accept the situation, much as many of the kids I teach have. But I refuse to do either. I want to keep my shock. I don't want to accept the status quo. I want to question the way young people and adults choose to treat each other and demand that we do better. But also I want to show empathy to those who do not know what is right, or choose not to because it is easier or 'just the way it is'. I am always only one step, one lost hope or dream away from choosing to do wrong to someone else.

We are all capable of the best and the worst. But the best is my hope and I will keep being appalled when we do not live as we should, instead settling for much less than what is meant for us.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Beautiful autumn

This week has been totally gorgeous. Blue dome days, crisp mornings and warm sunshine on my back as I eat my lunch. God does a good thing when inside I feel down but the day shows me there is always hope and beauty in the world. I just have to believe it.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

faith is quite the conundrum...

I have been dealing with faith over the last few weeks. With all I went through last year it taught me that anything can happen in life and that I need to depend on God. Now I am facing the fact that if I am really honest I struggle to believe many of the promises in the Bible. I can see all the exceptions where faithful people have terrible things happen to them, despite prayer and trusting God. Also, the world is not perfect and I have really learnt that, so I have often found it easier to believe God will help me pick up the pieces when life falls apart, rather than believing he will act to stop it falling apart in the first place.

I believe it is dangerous to believe bad things happen to people because they don't have enough faith, but I also thing it is sad that I expect the worst often or at least do not commit my life and the situations I face to God.

Apparently faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain, but can I risk the mountain falling on me if God chooses not to act? Is that what a good father would do? How else can explain the suffering of the good Christians I know.

I hope and pray God will teach me how to have faith without being in denial of what I feel and fear.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Jesus is not my therapist

This may not be revelation to you, but it has challenged me. Yesterday I went to a seminar given by a guy from L'abri in Sydney. He was talking about Christianity and Science. One session was about the rise and rise of New Age philosophy and spirituality as an answer for peope searching for healing and hope. He mentioned that many forms of therapy can fit under the umbrella of New Age.

One thing he pointed out that Christian faith is not about self. It is about the giving up of self to God, it is about making Jesus Lord of your life. And he expressed the view that any type of therapy which only deals with the self will not bring about lasting healing. I found this challenging. So often I feel totally absorbed in my own weaknesses, pain and struggles. But what he said is true and I can testify to its truth in my own life. The times I feel most at peace are when I am aware of the needs of others and put them before my own.

However, I think today's culture, and certainly myself, don't really like the idea of self denial because we have seen people burn out and hurt those close to them by not dealing with their own issues, or people can feel neglected as they meet other's needs but their own are not met. But this is not what God wants. The kingdom should be about everyone caring for each other so that no-one is in need.

So I want to take the risk of leaving my hurts and struggles with God and getting up and getting on with doing something to serve. Maybe not anything really big, but something. Because there is no hope or peace in staring at my own navel. Jesus is the healer but he certainly isn't my therapist.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

South Island Escape

Wow! It is already the end of March. So much water under the bridge. We had an amazing holiday in the South Island over the summer holidays. When I look at the photos I am amazed at all that we saw and did. I just didn't realise how amazing it was when I was there. I can't wait to see more of beautiful New Zealand.