There’s a long and layered backstory to this blog (which I may put into a book someday) but for now I'm going to summarize the relevant information in 3 points:
1. I really want to have children and be at home with them (at least while they are little)
2. God has made it extremely clear in a number of ways that he wants my husband and I to build a house
3. 1 & 2 are not compatible with our current financial situation (in order to service the mortgage we both need to be working)
About a month or so ago, we had a number of “out-of -our-control” situations that meant the cost of our build almost doubled (keeping in mind point # 3 was a thing before this happened).
Now, I’ve never really been a fearful person. I’ve been graced with childlike faith and carefree hope, but the moment I saw that number something flipped inside me and all I felt was trapped and powerless and ashamed.
I began to do mental math – what sort and how many promotions I would need; calculating what I could earn from doing extra jobs or hours or what I could possibly do to make this work. I spent the afternoon swirling around in a frenzy of anxiety and numbers that I knew would never add up. I was so caught up in this spiral it was hard to hear His voice, so when I got home I returned to the original promise we had been given, to reassure myself that God had called us into this process and would not abandon us halfway through.
A song of the stairway, by King Solomon
When I was first given this Psalm, I was understandably captured by the parts about children and houses. But this day, the moment I heard His voice again was in verse two. My one and only question was “How am I going to pay for this house?” and His answer came gentle and firm.. “Get an early night.”
So I did. I went to bed before 8pm and had the holiest sleep of my life. When I woke up, not a single thing had changed about my 3 realities listed at the start, but I just understood on a deep and unshakeable level that striving is senseless and His gifts are good. And that some of His best work happens, not necessarily when I do nothing, but more when I lay my head down in confidence that he's providing and doing His best work while I'm at my most vulnerable.
Bill Johnson says, "You only have authority over storms that you can sleep in." (Matthew 8:23-27) I am convinced that once God has given a promise, there is nothing the enemy can say or do to stop that promise eventuating. The only thing that is up for debate is your rest, peace and joy in the process. Your rest, peace and joy are yours. Don’t sacrifice them, don’t squander your beautiful inheritance as those things are yours right now and can be with you on every journey and in every storm as you walk toward the future He has declared for you.
I’m beginning to learn that sleep is a prophetic demonstration of trust and rest, and is one of His most precious gifts to us. He provides sleep to His beloved, AND provides for His beloved even while they sleep!
Since that night, I’ve had a growing awareness of just how much sleep is contested in so many people’s lives, and the impact that it has. With that growing awareness has come an increased authority to see this precious gift restored. To my tired, exhausted or weary friend: If you’re reading this, regardless of the reason, I release grace over you right now and declare that the contest over your sleep has ended and the winner is Jesus. It’s always Him. He’s never lost a battle. Tonight, is the beginning of you sleeping soundly, and waking up refreshed, regardless of the number of hours you got. He can do a lot with a little, you know.
As for the house, we have had at so many instances where the impossible has become possible including one where we needed $50,000 in one week and 7 days later it was covered (through about 5 different creative and random miracles). I’m embracing this season for the extravagant demonstration of Love that it really is, and pondering these things in my heart until a day where I have the full and powerful story to tell. And until that time, I’ll be over here with more than enough peace and joy for the journey.
P.S. I’d love if you would get in touch with your stories of sleep provision in your current situation, or your stories of provision while you sleep!
I often label myself as a Jack-of-all-trades, or should I say Jill-of-all-trades. I have tried my hand at many different crafts, skills and tasks and at home I cook most meals, fix the leaking toilet, mow the lawns, mend the uniforms, sew the costumes, wash the car… just don’t ask me to climb a ladder!
“Jack of all trades, master of none…” Sometimes it can have a negative tone to it; that I am not a Specialist in any field, I’m just a Generalist. But that’s ok. This is who God made me to be, and I am truly thankful to him for it.
I haven’t always been satisfied with who or what I am. I grew up with a low self-esteem, being the chubby girl at school. All the other girls were prettier or excelled at sport, or singing, or writing and here was me, just doing my work. Throughout my primary years I often had someone pointing out what was wrong with me. The names still echo in my mind, “Beached Whale”, “Roly Poly Nicholy”. I dreaded PE Classes, especially swimming! Of course I had some great friends, and they would always support me - and I knew my parents believed in me and loved me. But isn’t it funny how the negative things stick in my mind more than the positive?
It has been a long road to get to the point of accepting who I am, and it is something I have to continually reiterate to myself. I am a child of God. And regardless of what is going on in my life, no one can take that away from me.
If God is for us, who can be against us?
I am a visual learner, so for me, I have to put my reminders where I will see them every day. Whether at home or at work, I have things on the wall and written on the mirror. Scriptures are crucial. A couple that I keep close are:
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
I also tend to collect items that tie in with a scripture or an event that had meaning for me. I have a bracelet that I wear most days with a cross on it from a ladies retreat; I have small canvas paintings that I made at prayer weekends at church that sit on my desk to remind me of the truths I learnt through those weekends. I have colouring books with verses throughout them and a bible with pages for journaling and drawing and colouring. I love to colour. And I love to be able to ponder on one verse. Even for weeks at a time. Sometimes just one word. Last year, God gave me one word, Precious. That word has stuck with me. I have a whole page in my diary of just that word written creatively with swirls and colours and hearts. I am an avid believer in rote learning. The more I write it, the more it will stick in my head. And being able to see the word that I heard from God makes it all the more special.
Can I encourage you, if you are struggling with self-acceptance, if you feel like everyone is against you, if you don’t even want to go outside, just remember: You are a Child of God. He loves you more than you will ever realise or understand and whether you are a Jill-of-all-trades or a Master-of-one, you were fearfully and wonderfully made and God will never tell you otherwise!
Make a conscious decision to remind yourself of that fact every day.
How could you help cement His truth and what He says about you in your life?
Keep shining, you never know whose dark day you might be lighting up!
Ever felt the urge to compare your body to someone else’s?
Or ponder why some things come so easy to other people while you have to struggle through the same problems every day?
Or why you weren’t given the talents or gifts of someone who seems to just naturally succeed at life?
Making comparisons is all too easy.
The media is often blamed – and rightly so – for the pressure it places on young women to look a certain way. Even church, which should be a place of acceptance and freedom to be who God has gifted you to be – can become competitive too. Sometimes churches can over-emphasise how much work you’re doing for the kingdom, or how committed you are, or what your attendance record looks like. And some youth groups can be more intimidating than high school, with the pressure to fit a certain mould.
Social media can be a breeding ground for competition and comparisons too.
Had a bad day? Well, log on and witness how many women have had breakfast in bed served by their fabulous husband when you’ve just gone through a separation… or observe photos of gorgeous newborns when you’ve been trying for a baby for years… And it’s really not the fault of the person posting the pics – most of the time they’re just sharing good news. But because it's human nature to compare ourselves to others, it really can be quite depressing…
I like this quote:
“One reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with other people’s highlight reel.”
Facebook is a truckload of highlight reels. Of course if you knew the behind-the-scenes of every smiling image, you would find the girl on your friends list may well have just as many insecurities, low moments, and silent struggles, as you.
We’re all struggling with something, at some time.
As a parent of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I've often found it tempting to compare my family situation to others. Scrolling through photos where kids my son's age are receiving awards at school and thriving can be a real trigger for me – and I slip into despondency. But I need to keep coming back to the fact that God has taken me and our family on this journey for a reason, and remind myself to be thankful for the many blessings and beautiful moments that come along with the trials.
In whatever we’re facing, it’s so reassuring to know we have a God who has mapped out our life from the beginning.
He knew what struggles would be unique to us and has a plan and a purpose for every aspect of our lives.
Because of Christ, we are well-equipped and more than enough.
With God, we have what it takes to face life head on.
And if we don’t already have the skills needed to confront our daily dilemmas, we will learn them soon enough!
We are works in progress, moulded by each new thing that comes our way.
And we have a loving, comforting Heavenly Father who knows exactly what we need at all times.
Not that it isn’t still tempting to play the comparison game...
But when we remember that God’s ways are higher than ours; His intentions towards us are only good; and He is with us all the way – then we find the strength to keep pushing through and meeting each new challenge with confidence, boldness, and wisdom.
He is with us, right now, in our unique struggles, and he will guide us through.
But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness'. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
They were bickering over something. I can't even remember what. It wasn't even a full-scale argument, just a difference of opinion, but on this particular day, it just felt like too much. I could feel myself reaching breaking point. I wanted to scream all manner of things; instead I abruptly sent them to their rooms with no explanation. I'd have to later explain it wasn't because of anything that they'd done (I have one daughter who is devastated at the mere thought of making a mistake and upsetting someone); it was because of me. It was to protect them from me.
I did not have the reserves that day to speak with wisdom or grace; to be sensitive to their own struggles in the midst of all our transitions. At that moment, I was definitely not the epitome of a Proverbs 31 woman!
The Proverbs 31 woman. Sometimes we read of her and find freedom in the many and varied tasks she engaged in; in how industrious she was both inside her home and in the marketplace. Other times? Well, let's just say we wish she hadn't been quite so talented at balancing it all so virtuously!
A few years back, I was invited to be part of a series a Women's Ministry was doing on the Proverbs 31 woman. I was assigned verse 26 and it was loosely titled wisdom. I was excited - that is until I actually read the verse and realised that it was about the tongue! It says:
She opens her mouth in [skillful and godly] wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue [giving counsel and instruction].
When I read these words I think I literally sighed. The Message paraphrase summarises it saying: "When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly."
Can I be honest and say that this is not always what comes out of my mouth?
You've probably gathered by now that I am a words girl. I love words. I love to read them, write them and if you've ever met me, then you'll know I'm seldom short on them in conversation either! But what is my strength is also an area of weakness for me. And I know, that when I can't control my tongue; when I'm lashing out or not opening my mouth in wisdom, that it's an indication of something deeper. It's an indication of how healthy my heart is.
In Luke's gospel, Jesus said this:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
One of the biggest things I've realised as a Mum, is that more than managing a household, I am managing an economy of hearts. And each of these hearts is indelibly tied to the health of my own heart.
When my heart is tired, impatient words spill over.
When my heart is disappointed, cynical words squash expectation.
When my heart is holding on to hurts, bitter words poison the air.
Healthy words and healthy connections require a healthy heart. I love how the NLT translates this verse, it says: A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart.
My heart is a treasury. It is worth taking care of.
Over the years I've learnt the importance of doing things that bring me joy; of nurturing my soul and practicing self care. But the biggest thing I've come to realise that my heart needs to be healthy is truth. God's truth. I don't want the world's wisdom or its ever-fluctuating truth. I want His.
Sometimes storing up His truth in my heart is hard - not merely because life is busy, but because sometimes His truth is confronting. It asks me to surrender. It asks me to obey. It asks me to trust.
But only God's truth can refresh my weary soul and renew my strength.
Only God's truth can speak to my disappointment, reviving faith and restoring hope.
And only God's truth has the power to wash me clean; to heal and redeem my hurting, broken places.
So I store it up in my heart. Some days I snack on it - grazing where I can. Other days I sit and feast, savouring each morsel. I let it sustain me. And with every deposit, His wisdom shapes my life.
What are you storing up in your heart? Allow His truth to reveal the treasure that lies in your heart today.
I was forever sketching and painting when I was young, my heart so full with a passion for Art. Seeds of this passion were planted in the soil of my life; yet somehow for the last 35 years they have lay dormant as I entered into an Art wilderness. But last August God spoke to my heart “Karen, this is your Jubilee year (I had turned 50), freedom and new things are coming forth”. On hearing that I felt an awakening in my spirit, a desire to be creative and explore new things.
What I did not expect was to be revisiting old dreams long, long since buried and even obliterated from my memory. The Holy Spirit gave me two scriptures which both spoke of a wilderness that would blossom and a way that would be made in the desert.
“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom”
“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert”
Karen Symons, an Artist at my Church began Adult Art Lessons this year and like a moth to a flame I signed up excitedly for them; unaware that even though I’d forgotten my dreams, God had not! I know now that He was showing me He cared about every aspect of my life and who He has made me to be.
Armed with a spectrum of beautifully coloured Acrylic paints and canvases I attended that first Art class, wondering if I’d even manage to paint anything passable at all. No one was more shocked than me at the well of creativity that bubbled up. I found I had an aptitude for Art and I experienced such joy in the process of painting. The lights just started to turn on and as the weeks went by I realised it wasn’t a one off but that God had relit the fires of my passion for Art.
But you know what, I have learned something more valuable than gold; I discovered that God loves me so much as His daughter and wanted to bless me by giving me good and perfect gifts. Oh, and gifts are exactly that as they are freely given and not something that must be earned or strived for. He wanted to lavish his perfect love on me.
He was encouraging me: “Karen - the best is yet to come”. As a woman, who is busy with part-time work, activities, teenagers and a home, taking time out to explore new interests and creativity is good, a part of who I am, my identity. He was loving me to life!
Dear ladies, we are so busy nurturing our families and ministering to those around us, we forget to self-care! We feel guilty for taking time out to pursue what we love. Have you ever said to yourself, I will wait until the children are older, or when I can carve out the time, and have enough money? Oh, how easy it can be to let our dreams and creativity die and lose our sense of self. God however has created us to live abundantly and joyfully, not to merely exist.
I have met amazing women of God at these Classes, who have lifted me to reach higher. We have encouraged one another in God! I believe too that there is a prophetic unction to painting – God is a creator God who spoke and the world was formed; who strategically placed the stars in the midnight blue velvet skies. He is the Master Painter, He is the source of all creativity and He has given us gifts and anointings to bless us and those around us -why? because He loves us.
Can I ask you dear women – have you given up on your dreams? Do you feel perhaps not good enough to pursue them? I believe God wants you to know you are worth it, to not be afraid, but to embrace life and the wonder of creativity in all its forms. It could be Art, Photography, Music, Dance, Craft – you name it, there are no limits. God has placed gold within you, He’s calling it forth. He loves you and everything about you. He made you, He created you, His very own Masterpiece.
And God has not forgotten your dreams and the desires of your heart.
Oh, have faith for yet more! I do. As a girl my dream to play the piano was thwarted, but next term some 40 years on– I’m going to start learning to play the keyboard with a tutor.
Let Him love you, Let Him bless you, Let creativity blossom and bloom.
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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