The days here have been getting warmer and smatterings of spring blossoms have been making an appearance amongst the barren winter branches. Yes, it might still be winter, but spring is making her imminent arrival known.
I've found this rhythm of the seasons, the heralding of the beginning of something new whilst still in the middle of the prior thing, to be a pattern in my own life.
I have sensed that a move is coming long before it has eventuated
I have felt the shift in the spirit that signifies a breakthrough is coming long before it has been made manifest in my circumstances
I have dreamed dreams and felt the stirring of calling long before I have been ready to steward it
In Isaiah 42, God tells us this:
"See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you."
Perhaps you're more familiar with a similar declaration in Isaiah 43:
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I have found that God announces things to us - invites us to hear His heart and His plans - before it's time for them to be realised so that we can recognise their unfolding and be ready to partner with Him.
However, in my own journey, this early heralding has often been a source of frustration and I have become so forward focused that I have failed to be present and enjoy the season that He has me in.
Several years ago, it became clear that we had outgrown our house as a family. What had once been a spacious place now felt like a place of confinement, and while I was restless, a move was outside of our resources, so I hadn't seriously entertained it. But after speaking at a woman's event (where I should say I didn't mention the size of our family or our living situation), a lady came up to me and said that she felt we had outgrown our home and that God wanted us to know that we didn't need to worry, we just needed to pray about it. It was to be the first of many prophetic words we would be given about a move and a spacious place. The actual move would come two years later.
As these words began to roll in in quick succession, I felt sure that a move must be imminent and my attitude both towards my house and maintaining it deteriorated. I began to rationalise that certain things didn't matter anymore because 'we would be moving soon.'
But after a year, it was clear that the move was not a 'now' thing. We still believed it was what God was promising us, but that He had spoken it when He did to offer us hope that things would not always look the way that they did; that there were things for us to look forward to in our future.
So I began to focus on the now. To be present in my home. To do all the things I could to make it inviting and practical for that season. But we also made sure we were ready for when God gave the green light for a move. We decluttered and hired a skip; we did what we were able to to make a move financially feasible; we began to look at houses in the areas we sensed God leading us to. We simply took one step at a time while still staying firmly planted where God had us for that time.
At the beginning of this year, what we had earlier 'heard' God announce, was realised as God worked in miraculous ways to not only make a move possible, but to exceed all expectations that we had had for a new home. 'Hearing' in advance enabled us to perceive and partner with what God was wanting to do. It also readied my heart to be able to release what had been - to forget the former - and embrace the new.
This, and several others experiences of 'hearing' something before its time, have taught me that we must both treasure what God is saying to us about the future and where He currently has us. Both are precious, and just as the seasons share a period of time as they crossover, we can hold both the present and the future in our hands.
What has God spoken into your future? What does it look like for you to partner with what He has promised while staying planted in your present?
Be encouraged that even if you cannot yet see how His promise could possibly be realised, that He is the One who makes a way in the wilderness landscape of our lives - who causes the barren branches to burst forth with new blooms of beauty.
I am blessed to have many women in my life that encourage and lift me up. One in particular - I call her Mama Pip - is my 'church mum' or 'spiritual mum'. She has played a pivotal role in my life, far more than she probably realises. One of her catchphrases is “Shine on you crazy diamond”. It was years ago that she centred one of her messages around this line and it has stuck with me ever since.
Now, the cool thing about diamonds is that they start as boring old carbon. It takes heat and pressure to turn them into the beautifully unique jewels we see in the store windows. The Nature journal gives this basic recipe to make a diamond:
1. Bury carbon dioxide 100 miles into Earth, billions of years ago.
2. Heat to about 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Squeeze under pressure of 725,000 pounds per square inch.
4. Quickly rush towards Earth’s surface to cool.
Just like the diamond, we too are put through trials and pressures in life. And with God on our side, we can go through these challenges and come out the other side a beautiful, crazy, diamond.
James told the twelve tribes to:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
It’s easy to say “thank God for your trials” - it’s a whole other thing to actually live through them. Some days there is too much to handle, and it would be so much easier to stay in bed, pull the blankets over my head and pretend the world doesn’t exist.
Some days it’s the little things that matter the most. I have had seasons in my life where there were some big challenges that I had to face and to get through each day, I had to just find one small thing to be grateful for. It is a choice we have to make, to seek joy.
Hebrews 12:1-2 says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
We have to choose to look to God; to look for His light in all things and at all times.
I used to attend a ladies life group where we would have “praise reports” at the start of our weekly meeting. Sometimes it would be an answer to a prayer request from the week before, but sometimes it would be something really random. For some of us, it would be the fact that we made it to life group! With three children and everything that goes along with that, it was a big deal for me to go out in the evening. It was a great encouragement to all of us, whether we were sharing or listening, to see how God had blessed us, even in the little things.
Can I encourage you, every day, to find at least one little thing to be grateful for. Whether it was the cup of coffee when you got up in the morning, enough fuel to get to where you wanted to go, sufficient food to feed your family, a smile from a friend, or perhaps the fact that at the end of the day you had a warm bed to get into.
Find a “spiritual mum” who can support and encourage you through your life. This could be a Pastor, a Small Group Leader, a Spiritual Director, a wise friend. Keep a diary. List the little things you are grateful for each day. In a few weeks, you will be amazed at all the things God has done for you!
Shine on you crazy diamonds and never stop looking for his light in the little things!
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?
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
'But'. It's a word that gets used on a daily basis in my household:
But you said...
But that's not fair...
I don't want to hear any 'buts,' just do it...
And on it goes. This little yet powerful word gets thrown around throughout the day - throughout our lives - and depending on the context, it will remind us of the obstacles, the limitations and perhaps even injustices that we might find ourselves facing, or it can open up another perspective. 'But' has the potential to unlock a new way of thinking; to cause us to focus less on the impossibilities and more on the possibilities.
I've been offering plenty of my own 'buts' up to God of late; dampening the desires and the dreams that I know He has placed within me with a narrative of impossibility.
But I don't have enough [I could write a shopping list for you here!]...
But I just want a break...
But I'm tired of waiting...
But it's just too hard - impossible even...
Scripture shows us a pattern of such impossibilities encountering a 'but God' truth - however if you're anything like me, you've probably been guilty more than once of switching it round. Of derailing what God wants to do with 'but impossibility.' We allow our obstacles and inadequacies to become bigger than who God is.
I love what Paul Manwaring writes:
This is where the real battle of faith is, the battle of trusting an unseen, eternal reality and letting it transform the way we negotiate visible, temporal reality.
'But God' is not a denial or whitewashing of what we face; rather it is allowing the reality of who He is, of eternity, to reshape how we see our lives and our circumstances.
David models this for us throughout the psalms:
When he had to flee from his son Absalom and his foes were many and people were telling him that God would not deliver him, he said, "But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head." (Psalm 3)
When he felt forgotten and he wrestled with his thoughts - his heart heavy with sorrow - he declared, "But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.. I will sing to the Lord for He has been good to me." (Psalm 13)
When he considered God's holiness, that the wicked could not dwell in His presence, he was aware of the grace that enabled him to draw near saying, "But, I, by Your great mercy, will come into Your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple." (Psalm 5)
David allowed himself to express his worries and his fears; he acknowledged the obstacles he faced and the enemies who opposed him; he accepted his own inadequacies and failings but he didn't allow his thoughts to stop there. Time and time again the Psalms show us how David lived not in light of his impossibilities but by the truth of 'but God.'
It is not a sin to see the obstacles we face or to give voice to our fears and our anguish but we mustn't allow them to stop us from encountering God or pursuing His plans for our lives. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul writes:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
I don't know about you, but when I continually interrupt God with a narrative of 'but this' or 'but that,' the truth gets distorted and I become susceptible to believing lies; to elevating my problems above the wonder of who God is. And when I do this, I am robbed of truly knowing God and from experiencing the fullness that He has for me.
We need to recognise that our minds are a battlefield - that the enemy would love us to think in a way that keeps us distracted from seeing God's goodness. We must learn like David to process our reality and to then submit it to the powerful truth of 'but God.'
And when we allow 'but' to become an invitation to a new way of thinking - to God's perspective - then we will be positioned to see and experience His goodness in each and every season of our lives.
Where do you need to say, 'but God' today?
We're entering the final weeks of winter and despite the biting cold, the signs of new life, of new beginnings are bursting forth. The lambs are being born, the barren trees are budding ready for the blossoms to emerge, and dormant bulbs are starting to push their way up and out of the dark heavy earth that has been concealing their existence.
It was a number of years ago now, in the midst of a dark winter season of my own soul, that God revealed this truth to me: the seeds of new life don't begin in the spring but in the winter. In the midst of the cold and sometimes barren landscape, things of great beauty are being realised.
Just last winter God led me to a new beginning of my own, asking me to resign from what I would have previously described as my dream job to be at home with my children and to write. In the midst of laying down the plans that I had built for myself - of allowing dreams to die and be rebirthed - I have been reminded afresh of the truth that God spoke through the seasons to me all those years ago, that the 'new things' often spring forth from the most unlikely of landscapes. That beautiful things can be born out of the hard things.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
The question that God asks us through the prophet Isaiah, is the question that we must each answer when we find ourselves in the midst of the winter - will we have eyes to see the new things God is doing? Will we have faith to believe that He is able to bring beauty out of our barreness?
There is a fragility to new beginnings. Like the lambs born into a harsh climate, seasons of transition, where we are just beginning to embark on a new path, can be times of vulnerability. The elements often oppose the new life that is emerging which is why we must guard our hope and protect the seeds that God has planted within us.
As we grieve what we have had to let go of; what we have had to release in order to embrace the new, we must trust in His redemptive plans and purposes for our lives. We must believe that He can make a way where we might not yet see one.
When we find ourselves in the paralysing throes of fear, questioning whether we have heard God right; wondering if we are adequate for the task before us, we must lean into His strength and trust that His grace is sufficient. Sufficient to equip us for what He is calling us to and sufficient to cover us when we mis-step and get it wrong.
When the path ahead feels lonely and confronting we must remember that He is not only with us, He is for us. He believes in us and He is cheering us on. God knows that we need His care and protection equally in times of despair and of advancement which is why He not only walks through the valleys with us, He is also, as Psalm 23 tells us, going ahead of us, preparing the table - preparing places of rest and provision - as we ascend the mountain. He understands our vulnerability and provides all that we need to go from strength to strength.
Stripped of my titles; stripped of my familiar routines, my own new beginnings have required me to face these same myriad of emotions. The contrasting emotions of grief and hope; of letting go and picking up have been overwhelming at times. Forging new paths and allowing God to do a fresh work in our lives is seldom a comfortable experience - they are however an opportunity to draw near and rely on God in a deeper way. To find our rest in Him instead of striving to make things happen on our own terms.
I have learned that it is only when we embrace the companionship of the Comforter over being comfortable that we are positioned for new things to emerge. But as long as we fight for our own comfort the seeds of new life are constrained.
As far as the seasons go, I actually love winter. I love cosying up to the fire with a glass of red or a warm cuppa and a good book, drawing comfort and warmth from its embers; accepting its offer of respite from the cold. I have not always loved it though as an analogy for my life. Experience has taught me however to appreciate the beauty that God births in us throughout the winter months.
Yes, the winter months can feel relentless, but beneath the surface beauty is waiting to be revealed. Do you see the new thing that God is preparing to spring up in your life?
P.S. Want to understand more about the table that God has prepared? Sign-up to get the devotional series, The Good Shepherd, to your inbox here.
The past 3 years of my journey with God have been peppered with tests, trials, sorrows, joys, achievements, obstacles and hope. Much like your own journeys, I am sure. There were times when the trials seemed to outweigh the joys and I was tempted to give up. I didn’t think I’d come out of the hot roasting refining fires with any hair let alone unharmed and singe-free.
I wept before the Lord, I railed at my own areas of weakness; I wondered why I kept making the same dumb mistakes over and over. But God was with me, fighting for me and I discovered He was doing a far bigger work in my life. He was working on my character teaching me to persevere and grow in faith.
I had a moment of clarity one morning in the shower as I surrendered my all to the Lord, envisaging myself ‘free falling’ and saying “Here I am Lord, my life is yours”. I made an active decision to forget the past and stop beating myself up about it. However, I was fearful that despite all, God would not meet all my needs; that the ‘holes’ in me, previously filled with addictions, shopping, distractions and even – dare I say it- ministry, would overwhelm me again.
That morning, I reflected on the things I had recently let go of, allowing concerns and memories to ruminate in my soul. I knew I needed to surrender afresh as my mind was pre-occupied with the ‘what if’s’. What if I blow it again? what if I have a bad day and I fail. What if? What if?
The Lord spoke to my heart “Karen, don’t worry about the things you need to let go of, or the issues you struggle with – surrender to me first and I will help you with the rest”.
It was that simple, but it was a moment of beautiful clarity. As I surrendered my heart again, I sensed such peace and trust that God would do what He said He would do, because He is who He says He is! Instead of trying to figure out everything myself, I lifted my concerns to Him and asked “Father, will you meet my needs?”
In a flash his reply came “I will supply all of your needs”. In that moment, Philippians 4:19 came alive for me personally. My Spirit received the words as truth.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Since that day my level of faith has grown. Instead of trying to struggle my way through the myriad of worries or issues I can perceive to be real, I bring this prayer to the Lord “Father, will you meet all my needs?”
I am delighted to be able to tell you that not only has He has met my needs, He has exceeded my expectations and hopes beyond measure. I am getting an inkling of what Jesus was talking about in John 10:10 when he said “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Why do we settle for less? Why do we sometimes have a martyr complex and live with doubt? It’s a promise from God. A full life, abundance.
My thought life has been changing as I daily surrender my heart and life to God (OK, sometimes it needs to be multiple times a day). I now declare and decree in faith that my Father will meet my every need; no matter what I’m feeling or what I’m going through.
I believe that good things are going to happen in my day, no longer do I need to be dictated to by my soulish emotions, or dreading a forthcoming ‘off day’. By decreeing and declaring truth my attitude is altered, my faith is activated.
“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word about Christ.”
The Word of God not only tells us what to do, but empowers us to do it. Faith is activated by God’s Word. For me the power in “I will supply all your needs” has been life changing, growing my faith and drawing me closer to God and showing me who He really is in my life.
God is supplying my needs in exciting ways and blessing me in ways I did not expect! For you see, when I surrendered my life to him and chose to let go (that was hard – I won’t dress that up), He also spoke to my heart “I will give you so much more than anything you’ve had to let go of or leave behind”
That is who our God is. He wants us to live life to the full. In surrender there is freedom, there is life.
Looking for some Scripture declarations to activate your faith - check out our 21 Scripture Declarations download here.
The posy sits in the center of my table, bathed in warm sunlight. Every time I pass by it, I whisper a prayer of gratitude for what it represents - for the friend who brought it and the healing that came with it.
We had been the most unlikely of friends and even though we’d known each other since childhood, it wasn’t until much later that our connection was formed. But when it was, it was like we were soul sisters. We laughed and cried on one another’s couches; took holidays together; spent hours on the phone and when our babies arrived, swapped our café catch-ups for mornings at the playground. Together we dreamed big Kingdom dreams, soaking each other’s lives in fervent prayer.
But then one day something changed. We both changed. It was subtle at first, but over time our different seasons – our different struggles – drove a wedge between us. I began to feel like a stranger in her presence. Misunderstood. Lacking. Deficient. Then one year, we both experienced overwhelming losses, and while I in my grief wanted to draw closer, she needed to retreat.
And so, in no uncertain terms, she moved away from me.
I drove home from that conversation in a daze of disbelief; tears streaming down my cheeks. They would not be the last tears that I would cry as the finality of no longer doing life together settled in.
But I knew in the midst of my pain, that I faced a choice. I could choose to live offended – to keep replaying the wrong that I felt had been done to me, or I could pursue forgiveness. In Colossians 3, Paul writes:
…Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
As I wrestled through my hurts, giving voice to my anger, the Holy Spirit graciously reminded me of this truth: Christ is all and is in all. I was His chosen and dearly beloved daughter. And so was my friend. The way that I thought towards her; the way that I spoke about her; the way that I prayed for her needed to reflect this truth. Needed to honour who she was in Christ and His presence within her.
This truth released me to trust God to heal my own heart, but also to believe for Him to do the same for my friend. To trust that in His infinite love, He could take the threads of what felt like opposing stories and conflicting needs to create something beautiful for each of us. Respecting her need for space, I sent her a card apologising for how some of my choices had impacted her. I no longer needed to agree with her interpretation of events in order to forgive; the Holy Spirit was awakening compassion within me for her perspective. Secure in the Father’s love for me, I was now free to wear love towards her.
Over the coming years, the distance remained. And although we occasionally exchanged texts and well-wishes, when our paths crossed I still felt held at arm’s length. Milestones passed and I felt the ache of her absence. Some days the grief and sting of rejection rose up afresh driving me back to my knees. Back to the truth that in Christ, I am dearly loved. At such times I had to choose again to entrust my aching heart to the one who loved me completely; to forgive as He has forgiven me. And as I did, my heart became whole again.
Then one day she arrived with flowers and her own apology. We sat on my couch like old times and the walls came down. The path of forgiveness – the path of love - paved the way for reconciliation.
I don’t yet know what will be written in the days to come about our friendship, but I do know this: the call to live in relationship, in authentic community will never be without challenges. We must continually choose to live loved – allowing His love to fill and clothe us so that we can love others well, even when we hurt. As we do, like my posy of flowers bathed in warm sunlight, things of great beauty will grow in and around us.
Live today with purpose,
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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