26 Feb 2014

Nothing to give

On Tuesday mornings every week I meet with the team that I manage for XLP. I love this time; as those of you who know me will understand - I am a team player! I love being together and being part of something bigger than myself. I love learning and growing together. This week we spent some time writing letters to God about where we were at/what was on our hearts etc. We then had time to listen to see what God was saying in response. 

So I spent some time writing to God about how sometimes I feel like this - 

But imagine that the weight is life. Sometimes I just feel very weak. Sometimes I feel like I am getting weaker the older I get - especially when I am surrounded by people who have deep needs. I don't always know how to help, how to support, how to be like Jesus, how to encourage. Sometimes I feel like my resources are limited or non-existent. It doesn't take much to deplete my stocks!

Recently I have been really struck by how I want my life to count! I want to be doing what God has created me to do...and not being sure if I am in fact doing that. Sometimes I just feel a bit lost and like I'm drifting through life not necessarily living in the fullness that is mine through Christ. 

Anyway, after attempting to articulate this to God I really felt him direct me to the story of Gideon. For those of you who don't know it, basically Gideon was the runt. 

He was the "least in his family", his family was in the weakest clan and his clan was part of the smallest tribe of God's people, the Israelites. All of the Israelites were being oppressed and so God was looking for someone to raise up to rescue his people. At this point an angel visits Gideon who is hiding in a wine-press. He greets him saying, "The Lord is with you mighty warrior". Obviously Gideon is a bit like "uh what?!"* (*that's a paraphrase - real words here)

But then the angel said, "Go in the strength you have...am I not sending you"

Now Gideon was runty and weak! If you continue to read the story (which you can here) he is scared and unsure. Not necessarily my top choice of who I would choose to lead God's people. But I really felt like that was what God was saying to me.

"Go in the strength you have, am I not sending you"

So much of the time I can base my life on what I can do. I forget that I serve a God who is MASSIVE! He can do way more. You see Gideon was a nobody and yet God used him to defeat his enemies and establish peace. I serve that same God who can use me when I feel very weak and like I've got nothing to give. 

For me it is a huge encouragement to be directed to this verse. To be reminded that God has just asked me to go as I am, with the skills and gifts I have and to serve him. Not only that, but that he is sending me. This reassures me that:
  1. He will equip me with any other skills I might need - he just asks me to be willing to use what I've got
  2. He has sent me - therefore when/if I am ever supposed to do something different he will make it clear
So while I might feel weedy like this...

....thankfully, I serve a God who is able to fill in what I lack so that I can be like this!

23 Feb 2014


I have had a brilliant week. It has been just what I needed. I took half term off as I felt like I was in good need of a break and it has been wonderful.

I spent the beginning of the week in London, just enjoying a slower pace of life. My family came to visit on Wednesday and we had a lovely day playing crazy golf, having lunch, shopping and just catching up. Loved it. 

I had another ace evening with my Church house group - opportunities to pray with each other, encourage each other and just do life together. 

On Thursday I went to visit these crazies in Cardiff.

I used to work with Jon, Bethan and Rhiannon when I was in Aberystwyth - we hadn't seen each other since April/May so it was great to have a catch up. Jon cooked AMAZING steak and we managed to break a number of his glasses...it was an eventful evening. 

On Friday I got a chance to meet up with Miriam, Josh, Rachel and baby Ivy - friends from Aberystwyth who I had last seen at Miriam's wedding in the summer. This was a joyful time of being able to encourage each other, hear about life in Wales and just be a part of my friends lives. 

Then on Saturday I was able to catch up with my friend Sarah in Norfolk - we visited the sea and walked along the coast to Cromer. It was a BEAUTIFUL day! 

As well as spending time with wonderful people I had ample travelling time with which to read. I spent some time reading through the book of Hebrews. There was one verse that particularly stood out to me. 

"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:13

I was really struck by how something as simple as encouraging someone else actually has the potential to stop them falling into something they'll later regret. As far as I can see encouraging others has 3 benefits:
  1. That person feels cared about. In this increasingly isolated world people can feel like they don't matter, that no one notices them and that they don't have a place. Encouraging someone helps people to feel valued and that they belong.
  2. You help to guard that person against sin. When people feel valued there is less of a need to turn to other things in life in an attempt to satisfy - drink, sex, drugs, work etc. 
  3. You feel good. Mark Twain said "The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer someone else up". Encouraging others in turn helps us to feel like we have value. 
I was thinking, what would our communities look like if we did encourage each other daily! If every day you were being reminded of your value to those around you. I think it would make a massive difference. I'm challenging myself to encourage more.

18 Feb 2014


A few days ago I got a text saying that maybe God was trying to talk to me about sacrifice. Now I don't know about you but generally when the word "sacrifice" is thrown out there I either think of Abraham about to kill his son, or I think about the story where Elijah is having the sacrifice competition with King Ahab. Neither of these stories fill me with joy as both require a pretty astounding level of trust in God. A level I feel like I will never reach if I'm honest. 

However, I didn't just want to dismiss this idea as something I'll never be able to get close to, so I did a little study. I have one of those Bibles (the big fat ones) that has a concordance in the back (most helpful thing ever.) So I looked up where it talks about sacrifice in the Bible.

Then I read the passages and made some notes - 

Then I had a think.

And I asked a few of you on facebook what you thought of when you heard the word "sacrifice". I got some great responses:
  • Dying to Self
  • Jesus' sacrifice for us
  • Abraham and Isaac
  • Marriage
  • Elton John
  • Putting other people before you/being willing to serve others - a number of people said this
  • King Julian in Madagascar 2! (personal favourite)
  • Love
  • Goats/Fire/burnt sacrifice
And then I drew some conclusions with everything I had read/thought about.

#1. What God wants most is our heartfelt, pure, authentic worship
    • "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Matthew 23:37 (Greatest Commandment)
    • "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship." Romans 12:1
#2. He deserves this worship because of the sacrifice that Jesus' death was
    • "...we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrews 10:10
    • "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:10
#3. Our response to Jesus' sacrifice should be to love like he did
    • "...live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:2
    • "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." 1 John 4:11-12

So when I think about sacrifice instead of it being about an unobtainable trust in God, it's actually more like trying to love God and love others. Now while this might seem easier, speaking from experience, loving God and people to a good standard is actually flipping hard! But I can trust that while I find it difficult to have the incredible trust that people in the Bible had - God doesn't leave me on my own to suss it out. He is there, and his Holy Spirit is at work helping me to think less of myself and more of others. 
      • "He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30
Sacrifice in a nutshell.

* Disclaimer - I am not a Biblical scholar. I'm just trying to adventure my way through life with God...so please correct me if any of this is wrong!

12 Feb 2014

Breaking the Cycle

It's been a while since my last post. There are a number of reasons for that but I guess the biggest one has been, I just don't feel like writing much; and the longer I leave it the less I want to write because I feel like it needs to be WOW.

However, I decided to break the cycle and to just write something. 

I was glancing over the stats for this blog and it seems that every year since it began in 2011 I have struggled to post much in Jan/Feb. I don't know whether its because the start of a new year is busy, or whether I get blue because of the cold/rain/grey, or maybe because I always seem to pick up some lurgy or other at this time of year. But there is clearly a cycle of finding it more difficult to articulate and express myself during these months. 

I find that in periods of pressure/stress I tend to retreat into myself. Being an extrovert that has some interesting results in the long-term. 

  • Frustration/lack of patience with people - not being able to have an outlet for myself means I get stressy with other people. It's not generally their fault, I have limited resources with which to deal with others.
  • I tend to cry a lot - as this is basically the only outlet I can't stop.
  • I over-think EVERYTHING. From whether people really like me, to whether I'm making good choices with my life, to if I can do my job etc etc.
  • I get very very tired. Which is probably also why I get sick (I'm in the process of recovering from a cold - very phlegmy)
  • I find it difficult to be fully present when I'm with people because I feel like I have to pretend to be ok, when actually I'm not. 
Now over the end of Jan, beginning of Feb I've been in this place and thankfully I can see the light at the end of the tunnel - this week has been SO much better! But when you are in the "I'm sad and I'm not even sure why, but I don't know what to do with the sadness" place, its really hard to know how to re-focus. 

Thankfully I am incredibly blessed to have some SOLID people in my life who are immense at pointing me back to truth and away from any of the lies that I might begin to believe. I've had some amazingly encouraging conversations with people from work, people from Church, people I barely know, people who I have known for ages. 

Each of them has reminded me of my true value. 
Each of them has made me feel accepted and loved.
Each of them has pointed me back to the anchor, the truth, the light - Jesus. 

I've had people come around just to give me a hug. I've had people dropping off cards and baked treats. I've had people pray with me/for me. I've had people let me cry on them. I've had people who have just come over to chill and watch things. 

I think I'm in a better place to be able to think rationally and to say that sometime life seems a bit overwhelming. Sometimes it's really difficult to remember the enormous blessings around you or to reflect on how far God has brought you. I have been SO encouraged by people who have stood with me and allowed me to be sad but have reminded me of reality. Because I love a God who is always with me, who gives value and purpose and who is a rock on which I can stand. 

And so today I am breaking this weird cycle, that I don't even get, of me being sad at this time of year. The light is breaking in.