It's a vulnerable thing to write about the places you are currently receiving healing, and even more so when it's on a topic that may be sensitive for a lot of people. I wrote this down in the hopes that whispers of truth would find their way into hearts where shadows have begun to form like they did in mine.
A while back I heard news that a married couple I hugely admired, particularly for the strength of their relationship, had separated. I didn't vocalise it, but I was angry. I felt like I was owed an explanation or something. Where normally I would feel compassion for the person or sadness for a situation, this time I was just angry. I was embarrassed to admit it because it seemed judgy, so I just pushed it down and "moved on."
To different degrees, this pattern has gone on over the last few months where I've felt angry at an outcome or expression of another relationship that sometimes doesn't even directly affect me. Now I'm self reflective enough to know that anger is my cover-up emotion for fear. I decide to be angry at something instead of facing whatever anxious thought is swirling around in my heart. I considered that maybe I was insecure in my own marriage, for if all of these other vows were being broken, what are the chances that the Flatts would succeed? But since my marriage is one of the safest places I know, I knew that my fears must be deeper.
Finally, I asked, "Papa, why is my heart fearful when I know I am safe and secure in my own marriage?" He said, "Because your heart is constantly being told covenant is fragile and breakable and you have begun to fear the one I made with you is too."
Maybe for you it is your own marriage that feels shaky. Or maybe a friend that you thought was forever has gone in a different direction. Maybe your parents fight or have separated or divorced. In all of these places the enemy will whisper, "Nothing is for sure. It's only a matter of time before things will break. Covenant is fragile, so don't let your heart feel secure or you'll be blindsided when it finally cracks."
If he can get you to partner with that belief, you will put up the very walls that hinder the intimacy that covenant should birth. It was only when I let Him show me what my heart was believing that I could hear the kind, reassuring voice. The voice that comes with such authority that every cell in my body takes note.
"For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My loving kindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken," Says the LORD who has compassion on you.
God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
His covenant is not fragile. It cannot be shaken or removed. It's not dependent on you and I. Though we are faithless, yet He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
Amanda Cook summarises beautifully in her song Pieces: "Love keeps its promises It keeps its word It honors what’s sacred Cause its vows are good Your love's not broken It's not insecure Your love's not selfish Your love is pure."
It's the only certain thing we have. He's the same for me on my worst day as He is on my best. Even if I tried, I cannot get him to "un-choose" me. It's only through the experiential knowledge of the strength of His covenant with me that I have the grace to fulfill my own.
One of the lyrics to my wedding song with Matty was "You know my paper heart, the one I've filled with pencil marks.. I think I might have gone and inked you in." Exposing my paper heart and fearful little pencil marks to the permanent ink of His love is the way to wholeness. He'll address every fear, comfort every sadness, and restore hope for every disappointment.
Today I declare over you that any misbelief around covenant or vows would collide and give way to the strength and sheer determination of His unchanging desire toward you.
Editor's Note: Please know that our heart in sharing this post is not to make anyone who has or is experiencing the pain of divorce or separation feel under condemnation, but to remind and encourage us all that no matter how much in our humanity we fail one another, His love for us always stands firm.
Before the sun sets, I ask myself, have I been fully present to God, others and myself?
Transitioning into a new year is something some of us do with great joy and goal setting; for some of us it is just another year to get through. Some people give no thought to their future and live day to day, while some, I have observed, are so future focused, waiting for the big breakthrough, that illusive defining moment that will change everything, that they are rarely fully present day by day - to God, themselves or others.
I love the quick wit of that great philosopher, Groucho Marx, who when out one evening said to his host, “I’ve had a wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it!” For some of us there never seems to be ‘a wonderful evening’ because we keep looking for that big breakthrough evening or event. Is such a desire wrong? No, but when we live so future focused, we run the risk of missing present moments that bring great joy, life, community, deepening of relationships, hope, personal transformation and healing.
As my wife, Pip, and I have navigated our personal journey of health these past years and stepped into a new year, I realise I have discovered more from learning to be fully present each day than constantly staring into the future hoping for one big miracle that will make everything all better (not that I do not hope). As I seek to practice the art of being fully present to the moment, to each person and to myself, I am laying stepping stones that create a pathway to the possibility of breakthrough in areas of my life. Sometimes big breakthroughs are the accumulation of small, moment by moment breakthroughs, which become the foundation blocks to the larger ones.
My personal defeats and victories in navigating this season of recovery have become in themselves, defining moments of growth.
You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.
I see why Jesus encouraged us to live one day at a time, not worrying about the next day (Matthew 6:25-34) because worry only robs us of present moments to grow, change and become the person God desires we be. As we journey through life, God is more concerned about the enlargement of our heart and our mind towards Him, ourselves and others so that we will have the capacity to receive and steward the big breakthroughs He has for us.
Today, He enlarges us to receive tomorrow.
While future hope is a wonderful focus, there is great power and transformation in learning to be fully present today, advancing one day at a time, not worrying but trusting.
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
God has invited us on a journey of trust, of learning to be fully present to Him, living in and from His
presence, so that we grow and become enabled to receive all He has for us. He alone knows the end from the beginning and crafts everything and everyone along the way.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
If we can learn to be fully present to God, ourselves and others and not miss today’s moments, we will become more greatly equipped to see the breakthroughs we desire - whether small or large. Let us steward today well so that we can be entrusted with His tomorrows.
“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still” (Chinese proverb)
May 2018 be a breakthrough year for you - each and every moment.
I was torn between laughing and crying when I went to make myself a much-needed cup of coffee and the jug wouldn't work. It was on a long list of appliances and furniture that had decided to give up on us. As I got out a pot to boil some water on the stove (I told you I really needed that cup of coffee!), I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit speak to my heart, "You're not moving with junk Aimee."
We've spent the past month packing up the house ready for our move and this phrase has kept resounding in my spirit. It's made me ruthless in my packing and sorting but it's also had me evaluating what I carry around on the inside. Determined that I wasn't going to bring any internal junk with me into this new season, I set aside time for a period of prayer and fasting, inviting the Holy Spirit to reveal to me what didn't have a place in this move.
But throughout the fast I felt haunted by the past. Things that I thought I had laid to rest long ago resurfaced and I found myself feeling incredibly frustrated. I mean, haven't we already covered this Lord?!
As I've been unpacking over the last few days, I realised that despite the fact that I thought I had ruthlessly disposed of all our junk, some had still managed to make the move with us. It was only as I unpacked it all in a new environment, seeing it with fresh eyes that I realised these possessions didn't belong anymore.
God has used all our packing and unpacking to show me that there were events in my life that I was not only holding on to, but even holding over myself as a source of condemnation that He needed me to be willing to let go of once and for all. To believe that because of His grace, things could be different - I could be different.
In Joshua 7, we read the account of a man called Achan and his family who were stoned for Achan's disobedience. His sin was that he had taken items from Jericho - items that were meant to be devoted to God; items that God had declared were sacred to Him and belonged to His treasury (6:17-19). God had forewarned the Israelites that taking what belonged to Him would make them liable to destruction and bring trouble. And who knows that God doesn't lie - trouble was exactly what the Israelites found themselves in when they next went to battle!
When Achan's sin was discovered, the penalty was death. He and all his household were stoned in the Valley of Achor, the Valley of Trouble. I know, it's hard for us to fathom, hard for us to read and contemplate what would have taken place and I'm not trying to gloss over this part - but the story doesn't finish there. There are five references to the Valley of Achor in Scripture. Two relate to this episode, and one is a boundary description, but the other two promise that a place of trouble and condemnation will be made into a place of hope.
Sharon will become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek me.
I will give her back her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope...
As I was reading this story, this story of sin, of condemnation and of judgment, I was struck afresh by the grace of God. The Valley of Achor - the places where we have sinned and fallen short - don't have to remain places of trouble in our lives. They can become places of rest, doorways of hope if we will be willing to seek Him out and receive His grace.
Because while the wages of sin is death, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23). As I have stepped into this new year and into a new home, God has been reminding me, teaching me AGAIN that I must see my life through the filter of Christ.
Yes, there are places where I have fallen short, things that I should be condemned for, but instead, God invites me to find rest there. In the very places that the enemy would like me to see as 'trouble' He asks me to see doorways to hope; opportunities for a confident expectation of His goodness in my life.
I've found that when we camp out in our personal 'Valleys of Achor', focused on the trouble we have known there, that we not only lose our expectation, we also close our hands to the gifts that God is wanting to give us and the new things that He is wanting to do. Clinging to my past instead of God's grace was hindering my ability to move into what He has for me. I didn't feel worthy enough to hold what He was wanting to entrust to me at this time. And while the truth is that I am not worthy, the greater truth is that Jesus has made me worthy.
So this year I'm letting go of the past to cling to grace; to open the door to fresh hope so that I can see myself and my life in a new light. His light.
What are you going to cling to in 2018?
It had been one of those mornings. From the moment he opened his eyes I had known it would be. After a night of broken sleep, Mr. 2 was on a rampage. Nothing and no one was safe in his overtired, illogical state.
Toys and tantrums were thrown, food was refused, plates overturned and the cover of our advent book torn in two. While I was busy cleaning up one mess he was off creating another one. Not even a turn on the neighbours' new swing could placate him.
Miss 12 got frustrated as he dismantled her picture perfect Christmas tree for the umpteenth time - the baubles were now his 'footballs' and he was delighted to find that some of them had confetti stars inside! His sisters, on the other hand, were not so delighted to have to pick up the said stars to return them to their rightful place.
We all breathed a sigh of relief when he went back to bed at 10am.
Cuppas were made, Christmas cookies popped on a plate and we grabbed our advent book - its torn cover now repaired by Miss 9. As I looked at this book and thought about our morning, God spoke to my heart. Amongst all the chaos of the morning there had been moments of beauty - and this torn book with words filled with the truth of Christmas was another pause, another moment of respite in our day.
This is the heart of Christmas - that into all our mess, from two-year old tantrums to when life feels torn at the seams - Jesus brings His beauty.
That first Christmas was far from picture perfect.
Israel was occupied
Elizabeth was barren
Mary was unwed
The journey to Bethlehem, long and uncomfortable - on a donkey no less
There was no room at the inn
Nor in men's hearts
Because Jesus did not come in the way they expected. They were looking for a warrior; for a resplendent King, not a baby. They did not anticipate Him coming so softly, so gently - so vulnerably. And so they missed Him - rejected and despised Him even.
I wonder how many times I've missed Him with me because life hasn't looked the way that I've wanted it to or thought it should? How many times I've rejected or even despised His work in my life?
Yet just as He did for Israel, He keeps drawing near. Keeps seeking me out. Keeps offering to exchange the ashes and messes of my life for His beauty.
For my chains, He offers freedom
For my shame, He bestows honour
From my barreness, He brings new life
When the journey is long, He lends me His strength
When I feel alone, He stays with me. Never leaving, never forsaking.
My life - this Christmas - does not need to be picture perfect for Him to be present and neither does yours. Jesus is the One who stands at the doors of our hearts and knocks, waiting for us to hear His voice; to open up our hearts and make room for Him to be with us so that we can feast on all that He is..
This invitation was not given to a people who had it all together; whose life and faith was picture perfect. It was spoken to a Church who had lost their passion and had become self-satisfied and self-sufficient. Jesus saw them as they really were: wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked and He offered them what they could not supply for themselves. In His love for them He spoke correction and reminded them that He was still there; still wanting relationship with them; still wanting them to experience and taste His goodness.
And this is what He desires for us this Christmas. That we would not rely on our own strength and resources; that we would not measure our lives against a store catalogue or social media highlight reel, but that we we would open the doors of our hearts and make room for Him to be with us, mess and all. That we would make Him our source and the object of our affections. That we would dine on His abundance and enjoy His riches.
You don't need a picture perfect Christmas because you have the most perfect gift that there is, Jesus. Hear Him knocking - not just at Christmas - but each and every day and open the door wide for Him to be Emmanuel, God with us, God with you.
As the Christmas season fast approaches, my thoughts have not been on the miracle of Jesus’ birth and the visitation of the 3 wise men. No, I’m feeling Charles’ Dickens' “A Christmas Carol” and the 3 spirits who represented the past, present and future - in particular, I am identifying with the spirit of Christmas past.
I’ve been dragging the chains of Jacob Marley’s Ghost around with me for more years than I care to say, my heart filled with negativity about Christmas.
As the merchandise and Christmas baubles appear in the shops from as early as late September, my heart begins to sink. Commercialism and the forced happy family ‘vibe’ start to fill my mind. The spirit of Christmas past visits me in the form of unhappy Christmas memories lodged in my heart and thoughts.
But, this year as I walked through a local Department store, cringing at the Christmas music which is played year after relentless year, God spoke to me in a new way about Christmas and the ghosts that have lingered on in my life. “It’s time to let go of the past” He said (He’s used this sentence to me before on a number of topics). “It is time to see the real spirit of Christmas, not what the Devil has blinded you into believing”
It was then I realised I have been parked in “Christmas past” way, way, way too long and have only believed lies, giving them more power year after year. By wearing the black tinted glasses of self-pity and gloom, my eyes have not been open to what is true, what is noble, what is right, pure, lovely, praiseworthy and so on.
The Spirit of Christmas Past took Ebenezer Scrooge back to his childhood where he revisited all the miserable times he endured as a boy - and we know that Scrooge became a hardened bitter man over the course of time as he allowed those childhood wounds to poison his heart.
The Holy Spirit took me back to my past, not to indulge me in my sorry memories, but to make peace and move on to the present. I noticed a few days later as I walked around the Mall and saw the Christmas Tree in the main square and gifts galore in the shops, that for the first time ever I did not feel like Scrooge, emitting groans of “Baa Humbug” here, there and everywhere.
No, I was smiling, feeling more than able to celebrate, understanding at last the truth of the first Christmas there ever was. A Christmas that wasn’t all glory and a 5-star hotel, with England’s Royal Portland Hospital birthing rooms and a family welcome later.
It was far removed from this. Never mind the 3 spirits mentioned in Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, the Christmas story that should touch our hearts, has much to thank to the 3 angels of the Lord.
We pick up the story with Joseph who is engaged to a godly woman named Mary. The unthinkable happens (this is how the world would see it) – an angel of the Lord visits her, foretelling that she will have a baby. In due course she becomes pregnant and it isn’t Joseph’s child - how culturally unacceptable, how shaming. Is this the glorious start for Jesus’s arrival into our world?
Joseph considers ending the engagement, but does not want to expose Mary to public disgrace (even though he considers a divorce). A 2nd angel visits and speaks to Joseph in a dream, telling him not to divorce her, for this is God’s work. So, Joseph marries Mary, who I’m sure had no end of trouble explaining away this pregnancy. This was not the way to usher in the birth of a King.
But trouble isn’t over yet. Jesus is born in Bethlehem and King Herod upon hearing of his birth wants to see him. Enter the 3rd angel of the Lord who appears in a dream, warning Joseph, instructing him to flee to Egypt as Herod has plans to kill the baby Jesus.
I felt God say to me through this “Don’t read the Christmas story one more time – read it for the first time”. I discovered a lesson as well through Dickens' writing, for when Scrooge saw what was ahead with the spirit of Christmas future, he dealt with his own Christmas past and embraced the present and the truth.
By looking to God and giving him my Christmas past, by seeing the true story of Jesus’ humble birth and God risking his beloved son– I saw that the true spirit of Christmas is love. True love. A love that brings healing to my past and hope to my present and future days.
Let me leave you with a question. How are your viewing Christmas this year? Through the eyes of Scrooge and the spirit of the past? With eyes that have heard the story so many times it’s just become a routine festive occasion? Or are you allowing God to speak to your heart and show you the truth, of the love that came down at Christmas?
October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month. This is my story...
I always envisaged a big family for myself. Growing up the eldest of four, anything less seemed, well, too neat and tidy - now that I actually have children of my own, I realise that there is nothing neat and tidy about being a parent full stop. Whether you have one or ten, raising children will challenge you to your very core!
I am grateful to say that a big family has become our reality. But if you had told me just how this would be realised, the young girl dreaming of babies and white picket fences would have laughed at you. God has not built my family how I imagined. I am a step-mother; I was a foster-mother to my nephew for several years; I have given birth to three healthy babies. I have also lost one of my babies. I am the one in four.
One in four. When I went for my three month scan, after two healthy and uneventful pregnancies, I wasn't expecting anything but to see my child for the first time. Instead I heard the words that were meant to bring me comfort; meant to make me feel like I wasn't alone in this journey. That this experience was somewhat normal because it happens in one in four pregnancies.
But those words felt just like they really are. Cold, hard, statistics. Just numbers. And none of our stories are just a number to God. We are intimately seen, known and loved.
From the outset, this pregnancy had been different. Each of our kids have been planned and wanted, but this pregnancy was a desire fulfilled. We began fostering our nephew when Isabelle - daughter number 3 - was 15 months old. We'd been talking about when to try for another baby when we got the call from CYFS to attend the family conference about his care. I'd never met him but we put our hand up to have him come live with us. Within six weeks a just-turned 3 year old was flown up to Auckland to join our family and I was about to experience the chaos that is three pre-schoolers! I say it in jest, but truthfully, I was ill-prepared for just how hard and heart-breaking it can be to parent a child who has been neglected and abused.
I went into the journey thinking that my baby plans were just being delayed but it soon became apparent to me that barring a miracle in my nephews life, there would be no more babies in the Walker household. I began to grieve the child I thought I would now never have.
It's hard to explain the grief that you can carry for someone you have never met - someone who is as yet, just an idea. But every day for a year I had to surrender this child I thought would never be to the Lord. I gave away every item of clothing, every toy, that I had kept for the 'next' baby and when I could bear it no more, I asked a girlfriend to pray with me for God to take the desire for another baby away. I knew that I needed to accept the shape that our family had taken and fully embrace the children that were in my home right now. Graciously God did.
After nearly two and a half years of raising my nephew, the journey came to an end. It was our decision but it is not a decision that I would wish upon anyone. My heart felt torn and battered. The grief began again - this time not for a child I wished for, but for a child I had held in my arms. A child I had fought for. A child who had called me his mum.
When people asked me how many children we had, I never knew how to answer. Who knew such a simple question could cut so deeply? I stopped mentioning him and would only talk about the girls. About eighteen months after our nephew had left, two women who didn't really know me asked me if I was sure that our family was finished. "Yes" I had replied, adding that, "God has shut that door."
But God began to whisper to my heart, did I shut that door Aimee, or did you? You see, I had always said thirty was my cut-off for having children. It was afterall when my Mum had her last, so I had always figured that was when I should be done by too! Isn't it funny some of the things we absorb and decide as children?! So here I was, in my early thirties beginning to wonder if the door had really been fully shut on adding to our family. Rather than excited though, I was terrified by the reawakening of a desire that I thought had died, but had really only ever been dormant.
The preceding years had been hard for a multitude of reasons and re-opening this door brought all my hurts and fears up to the surface. For six months I wrestled with God over the disappointments of the past. In that time, God did some intensive heart surgery and hope - the confident expectation of His goodness for my life - began to rise within me once again. I came to realise that while God was proud of my perseverance and the depth of trust that our trials had forged in me, that it wasn't His ultimate goal for me. Hope was.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
When we found out that I was pregnant, this child felt like the symbol of the new thing that God was doing in my heart and life.
And then those words. The one in four...
I'm not really sure how I made it out of the room and back to the car. How I made the call to my husband and then my midwife. It all felt like a bad dream that I hoped I would awaken from.
But I didn't. The next day my body began to naturally miscarry. It would take five full days. Grief was once again my companion. But this time, so was hope. As I made my way down our hallway in the middle of the night, in agonising pain, I heard the gentle whisper of God, Aimee, I know that this is a HUGE disappointment, but know that I love you.
God's love held me not just in that moment, but in the days, weeks and months that followed.
His love was in the friends who sat with me and cared for me as I miscarried my longed-for child
It was in the meals that turned up on our doorstep
It was in the many people who picked up and dropped off my kids when I was to weak to get up from the couch - who kept life normal for them while I grieved.
It was in the flowers people sent and the words of encouragement that they spoke
It was in His Word and in His sweet presence
The hope that had been forged in my heart in the preceding months had opened my eyes to see that His goodness and His love is always at work. Yes, in this world, we will encounter disappointment (sometimes that word doesn't quite seem adequate), but we do not have to live disappointed because we are ALWAYS loved. ALWAYS seen. ALWAYS valuable.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.
There were many other losses that year that God's goodness carried us through. He is not the author of our suffering but He is skilled at weaving it in such a way that it will work for good if we will allow Him too. He is the God who gives beauty for ashes.
We named our precious baby Jordan. It was a statement of faith that we would not let our grief take us back to the wilderness, but that we would trust that God was, and would always be, good to our family no matter what the journey looked like.
And He has been. In August 2015, I gave birth to Lucas. His name means bringer of light. I wanted to call him Lewis which means renowned warrior - Lucas was Dave's choice and believe me I fought him on it! But a few weeks before he was due, our daughter Misha came and sat next to me on a park bench and said, "Mum, we don't need a warrior, we need a bringer of light." Fittingly, he timed his entrance into this world with the sunrise.
There is a time to fight and to contend. But there is also a time to allow God to shine His light; to let the hope of who He is bring healing to our lives; to let His comfort penetrate our brokeness.
I have my moments where the tears still flow for the children I no longer hold in my arms. Where my heart aches for what might have been. But hope anchors me. The hope of what God has planned for my nephew's life; the hope that one day I will behold Jordan and see her in all her beauty. The hope that God has and always will be good to me.
You are not a number. Your grief - whatever the cause - is not a statistic. And my prayer for you today is that as you walk the path to healing, that hope, the confident expectation of His goodness, would indeed anchor your soul and awaken your heart to see His love towards you as it has done mine.
P.S. My nephew's story has had its own beautifully messy ending. After leaving our home, he had two further failed placements but he now has a home for life with an incredible couple who married later in life and were unable to have children of their own. He is their desire fulfilled; an answer to their prayers and the fulfilment of words spoken over their lives. God specialises in writing beautiful endings even if they don't come the way we thought they would. Can I encourage you today that your story isn't finished yet either xx
Right before I left home for University, I was given two beautiful framed pictures of the Greek Islands. For the last decade, these have hung proudly in every flat and house I have lived in. As a student in Dunedin, I would shiver in the cold of the flat and gaze at these pictures, imagining being there. Years spent gazing at these stunning images has grown a strong desire in me to go there.
My husband and I were beginning to save for a trip to Europe when we got a word from God to sacrifice for our future children and save for a house instead. While the process of buying land and building a house has been anything but smooth, I have found myself staring at these pictures again, fueling that familiar daydream of the day when I finally feel that warm, white sand beneath my feet.
The other day I was in that daydream and just felt I needed to hand it to God again. I know He's a perfect Father that gives us the desires of our heart, so I told him "God, I'm laying this down before you - if it were my choice I'd be there next year but I know that you love me so I just trust that you'll make it happen at some point.." The next morning, when my alarm went off, I saw this on the home screen of my phone. I had recently changed the version of my "Verse of the Day" app to the Message bible, as I had never read it before. I kid you not, this was the home screen of my phone.
One day spent in Your house, this beautiful place of worship, beats thousands spent on Greek island beaches.
I was instantly convicted. How many hours had I spent longing for those beaches when I had the Creator of that beauty in front of me all along? How many times had I daydreamed about tasting Greek food and seeing those incredible views, when I have a present invitation to taste and see that He is good?
I have experienced the love of God in such a deep way, that I can honestly say He has loved me more in one single moment than the whole world could offer me in a lifetime. There's no comparison. I have found such peace, such joy, such bliss in His presence that the things of earth grow strangely dim. Yet, the subject of my favourite daydream was something I'm yet to experience rather than Someone greater than life itself. Why is that??
In ten years of these pictures on my wall, I'd been gazing at a beauty I haven't fully experienced, and out of this a desire had been birthed in my heart for more. What if that very process was what caused the psalmist to write these words?
So deep within me are these lovesick longings, desires and daydreams of living in union with You.
What I'm beginning to understand is the fruit that gazing upon something produces my heart. I honestly think until now, I've allowed some of my deepest encounters with God to remain glimpses instead of gazing. I can finally see why David's prayer was to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord rather than just to see it. He dwelled, he gazed, he meditated. And out of that place of abiding, of remaining, something was birthed in his heart until he was called a man after God's own heart.
One thing I have asked of the Lord, and that I will seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, To gaze upon the beauty [the delightful loveliness and majestic grandeur] of the Lord And to meditate in His temple.
Because of this one revelation, I'm starting to revisit those places where He's given me glimpses. I'm meditating on that which I've seen, and it's causing me to daydream about what I'm yet to see. I'm learning to gaze on His beauty that I haven't fully experienced, and out of this a desire is being birthed in my heart for more.
And as for those Greek Island beaches? After laying that one down completely for the idol it had become, He said to me, "Of course, you will have to visit one day to fully understand that scripture". Now I daydream of the moment when I see it for myself, and laugh at the truth that everyday up till that point, I had experienced the "better than" God.
From the moment we wake up, we are faced with decisions - what to eat, what to wear, should we even get up or should we hit snooze for another 5 minutes (this is not really a choice in my household as the alarm clock comes in the form of a VERY busy 2 year old!). Some decisions we make almost automatically, but others, well they weigh heavy. We want to get it right. We're afraid of getting it wrong, perhaps we worry we'll miss out on what God has for us.
For me, this fear of getting it wrong coupled with my deep-seated desire to honour God with my choices, became somewhat paralysing. I had brought into a false interpretation of Romans 12:2 where Paul writes:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will.
His good, pleasing and perfect will. I'd understood this verse as progressive 'levels' of living in God's will that we could experience and not as describing the nature of God's will. So I thought why would you settle for what was just 'good' if you had the opportunity to walk in what was 'perfect'? For someone wired as I am, this self-imposed pressure to not just avoid making wrong decisions, but also to then try and discern whether I was choosing what was merely good or attaining to the perfect, was incredibly dis-empowering. It threatened to rob me of the freedom to make decisions.
It wasn't until we were faced with an impossible decision for our family that tore at my heart and I heard God's whisper - it's ok Aimee, if you think you can keep going that's great, if you need to stop, that's ok too, either way I love you - that I came to understand that there isn't always 'one' right decision. Sometimes (or oftentimes), there are several 'good' options and God trusts us to choose.
God is a sovereign God, He is still on His throne and He rules and reigns. But He has also chosen to partner with us - He has created us in His image and entrusted His creation to our care until His return. And because we reflect Him, we have the ability to think and to feel; to dream and to create - and He wants to see us use these abilities.
He has invited us to enter into relationship with Him and this relationship does not render us powerless; it does not require us to act like robots or reduce us to clones of one another; it does not reduce our lives to a predetermined script. In fact, He empowers us, makes us able to test and approve what His will is.
It's a bit like those 'Choose your own Adventure' books - the ones where every few pages you're presented with different options and where you choose to go next determines the ending of the story. In some editions there were up to forty possible endings! Rather than having one fixed ending, I've discovered that in life there are a variety of possible outcomes and paths that we might go down and they all have the potential to have God-honouring endings. To be marked out by what is good, pleasing and perfect.
The paradox of this freedom and power to test and approve God's will is that it requires complete surrender. It requires us to hold nothing back, to be what Paul describes as a living sacrifice.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering.
Such a surrender is a safe-guard to the incredible freedom we have in Christ. God can always work with a heart that genuinely desires to serve and honour Him - even if we mis-step or mis-interpret what His Word says, He is big enough to redirect us and get us back on track.
And as we surrender our lives to Him - as we trust in the goodness of His nature and His purposes - our hearts and minds are transformed and renewed. Made whole. We no longer measure our options against the world's standards and wisdom, but against His. When life feels like a multi-choice test, we are able to recognise the paths that hold what is good, pleasing and perfect. And then, we can exercise our freedom to choose.
Over the past year or so, my husband and I have had to process A LOT of decisions - life-altering decisions - and I am so grateful that I am no longer afraid of 'getting it wrong.' That I am no longer (or at least less frequently) plagued by decision-paralysis because I know that I have been empowered to make choices.
And with each decision, we return to our posture of surrender, inviting God to confirm or correct the path we have chosen. Expectant that as we seek to honour Him, this life will hold untold adventures.
What adventures are waiting for you to choose them?
Just recently, I foolishly believed a pack of lies. Oh, I can’t tell you how hurt and disappointed I was, aware that I had deceived myself. I knew my motives were not pure and that I had drowned out the voice of truth, but God in his mercy spoke life to me through a bee and some lavender.
In my laundry room one morning, I saw a dead bee in a spider’s web next to my fake lavender plant. I felt the Holy Spirit alerting me to take notice that the bee had been enticed inside and deceived into believing the plant was real!
See how deception works? We can be lured away from the right path by what looks like lavender, may smell like lavender, but isn’t lavender. Getting too close in the first place led to the demise of the deluded bumble bee.
It’s that simple. Deception is that simple friends. A momentary lapse in wisdom, listening to the Devil’s lies and skating on the thin ice of the pond once too often, can place us in dangerous situations, tangled up in a web of deception.
Samson, who’s story we read about in Judges 13-16 was enticed and deceived. As a consecrated Nazirite with a call on his life; he was not to shave his hair, drink wine or touch a dead body. In Judges 14:5 we learn he is near a VINEYARD seeking a wife, when he is set upon by a Lion (he kills it with his bare hands). We read further along in this same chapter that he is in the same area preparing to marry this woman. He notices bees swarming inside the carcass of the DEAD LION; then he scoops honey from it. Enter Delilah who he fell in love with in Judges 16. She enticed him to share the secret of his strength – his hair – which lead to the SHAVING OF HIS HEAD and the loss of his strength. Samson had a weakness for women, he flirted with sin and was more than once where he shouldn’t be. Like the bumble bee in my laundry, it ultimately led to his demise.
The Devil doesn’t sit around idly; he reviews our weaknesses, looks for the holes in our character and is busy making deception appear as attractive and appealing as possible. He tries to convince us that our broken areas are who we are and will always be. He uses any means possible - our personal relationships, our friendships, our ministry – everything in order to deceive us with his lies. God's heart is to lovingly lead us in to freedom with the Truth.
Lisa Bevere said:
“There were many times when truth spoke to me, but I did not listen. Often it called to me, but I did not hear it. I was too busy listening to lies. Unfortunately, if you listen to lies long enough, when truth speaks you cannot hear or bear it.”
Hands up to this. I have listened to lies and deceived myself, as we can all do. I can honestly say the struggle has been tougher as I’ve drawn closer to God and his call on my life. My heart’s selfish motives have at times shouted louder than wisdom and obedience.
After beating myself up a fair bit and feeling like a prize idiot, God revealed to me that he is training me through this school of hard knocks. He is teaching me to recognise exactly who my enemy is and what his strategies are through experience. Why? So that I will know the truth and who my God is. Secondly so that I will rise up and fight, wielding my sword (the Word of Truth) exposing the lies and planned deceptions of the enemy. Not just for myself, but for others,
The enemy is prowling around like a lion looking for someone to devour, remember? What lies has he been inviting you to entertain? If he can make you doubt your identity in God and your call, he will do just that.
That poor bee had doubtless been buzzing happily from flower to flower without a care in the world, confident in his natural ability to track down pollen. Yet he was lured inside by a fake plant, deceived by what was not real.
That is what the enemy wants for you. He wants to take you off course and out of the game, tempting you with what looks attractive, but isn’t real. Beat yourself up no longer, but be alert to the enemy’s plans and don't be like Samson, overly confident in your natural strengths and abilities. Lean in, be honest, desire Truth, read the Word and listen to the Holy Spirit in order to recognise the lies and deception. Don’t be robbed of your identity in Christ.
God has a purpose and a plan for your life – and it’s not just for your life, He will use you in the lives of others! Allow His truth to be the loudest voice in your life.
We sat together on the couch, her head buried into my shoulder as she wept for the things, the people that she was missing. And my heart ached for my daughter as she tried to figure out how to navigate her current season.
Change is hard. Being brave and willing to give new things a go and walk down yet unknown paths can be overwhelming.
As winter has given way to spring in our part of the world, something deep within us rejoices and celebrates the signs of new life. We have ached for something to come and replace the barreness. But new beginnings aren't always looked for or even necessarily wanted; they aren't solely the territory of the dead and barren places. Sometimes, God asks us to allow Him to prune the fruitful things - the things that are in full bloom - in our lives so that we can be even more fruitful (John 15:2).
Over the last two years, God has been bringing restoration and life to areas in my heart and story that I have longed for Him to, but He's simultaneously been asking me to let Him bring about new beginnings - to be pruned - in places where I wasn't looking for change.
He has asked me to resign my position and my ministry credentials
He has called us out of the Church we helped plant to start over after some 18 years of community
He has led us to homeschool when I never even wanted to be a stay at home mum (He sure has a sense of humour!)
And each of these changes has asked a question of me - do I really trust Him in the place of exchange? In the place where I don't yet know what my hands will hold and all I can see is what I'm letting go of?
Pruning seasons can be a unique type of change because we don't always know exactly what it is that God is making room for in our lives. We often only see the gaping whole left that was once fruitful and flourishing. Pruning inevitably ushers us into an in-between time - a time of uncertainty and waiting - just like in the natural, it takes time for the new growth to become visible.
In my own life, the place of exchange has tested whether I really believe that He is who He says He is. Whether I trust His heart towards me and the plans that He has for me. The place of exchange has revealed whether the Scriptures I quote are merely platitudes and bumper stickers or the foundation of truth that I've built my life upon because the place of exchange requires us to live with a deep assurance of His goodness and His love for us.
Jesus makes the Father's heart in pruning us abundantly clear - it is not to diminish us in any way but to increase us. To make us more fruitful. Pruning is not about judgment but preparation. And while it can be easy to entertain the voice of condemnation when we feel like we're being cut back, Jesus offers us this assurance:
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
Jesus is telling us, You are mine, I have washed you. Don't let the enemy tell you that you don't belong, that you're not valuable because you're being stripped back. Don't isolate yourself from Me; don't try and make things happen in your own strength, Trust that my heart is to cause you to flourish and be fruitful. Come, tarry a moment with Me. Apart from Me you can do nothing, but with Me, you can trust that greater fruitfulness is coming.
The word for 'remain' or 'abide' meant to remain, abide; to sojourn or tarry; to continue to be present; to be held, kept continually. It paints a picture for us of lingering in and savouring the presence of God with us. For me personally, I've found this 'abiding' to be both the challenge and the invitation of the place of exchange. My grief, my disappointment, my frustrations and impatience, the uncertainty can either build a wall between me and God or they can become a bridge to greater dependency, greater trust in His wisdom and goodness and in His time, greater fruitfulness.
If I want them to be a bridge, I must settle the question of trust. Will I trust His heart to lead me and yes, even to prune me?
I've decided yes. What about you?
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 the blogging team encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
If you want to get blog posts direct to your inbox pop here.