Testimony Top up…March 2017.

It’s funny, I don’t really know how I’ve been lead back here. I’ve just rediscovered this blog that I was using a few years ago, purely by chance, to be honest. I’ve sat and re-read the blog posts I wrote, and been reminded of a time in my life which I now look back on as so unbelievably precious. I guess it’s not that long ago, really. My most recent post was in mid 2014, and it’s now early 2017 – so maybe 2 1/2 years or so. Aged 22 to aged 25. But wow, how much has changed in that time. And now my own words are in front of me, with no-one but myself that can be held accountable for the challenge they present the slightly older, slightly more jaded, slightly weary…me.

So why not, I guess. Why not check in with this little community and see who is still here? You’re all a very safe option, in a way – because the chances are I won’t ever actually meet any of you – but, after a little notification pops up in your window, you just might read my rambling thoughts, and as a result, I’ve shared my heart with someone…however confused it might currently be. So here it goes…allow me to pour out a little of myself, and what’s happened since that little post in mid 2014.

Well, I sort of finished that degree I was talking about, in 2015. I managed 2 out of the 3 years, and left with a HND. I did well, although it was a struggle the whole flipping way! By the time I got to the end of it I had clearly forgotten some of the little lessons I so readily shared on here in my first blog (The Principles of Training), and decided that I wouldn’t continue with the third year. Whether that was the right decision or not I am still unsure…but that’s the decision I made. I had gained a new circle of friends, one friend in particular, who shared my enjoyment of the outdoors and opened up a new realm of activities and possibilities. Suddenly I had someone to go climbing, canoeing and mountain biking with. This friend is not a Christian, but we got on like a house on fire straight away, and to this day we remain very good friends – I love her dearly. In fact, I now live in her house…but we’ll get to that in a few paragraphs time! It was also in 2015 that my dear friend and mentor, who’s house I had shared since 2011 told me that she felt God was leading her to move across the country, around 300 miles away, to be closer to her extended family. This is the woman who had held me up and taught me almost everything I now knew about Jesus. The woman who had walked with me, prayed for me and counselled me almost every night as I was stripped and broken, and as I was only just starting to be rebuilt. The only woman whom I shared every struggle, fear, prayer and joy with…without fear of judgment or criticism. She had truly been gifted to me from God, and was now to be removed from me by the same. The process was quick, and within about 3 months she had moved away. Of course, we spoke very often and were very much a part of each others lives. I visited every month for the first 6, and we kept up to date with each others comings and goings. She spoke to me when she met someone, and when he asked her to marry him. We spoke through it all, but of course, it was different. She was gone, and suddenly I had to stand on my own two feet. I started to understand the definition of ‘second-hand faith’.

Before my friend had left, we had a third woman from our Church move into our community house, so I now lived with one other. She is super lovely, but after 6 months or so I began to feel the itch to move on. The house just didn’t feel the same anymore without my friend. After all, I’d moved in there to begin with to be mentored by her. I’d also gained a job in a town about 15 miles away, with the college I had studied in. It was shift work, and the journey home in the middle of the night was my perfect excuse to justify leaving the house. I looked at my options and one stood out as my route forward. My new friend (who I mentioned in the last paragraph) had a spare room in her house, and had mentioned that I’d be welcome to lodge in it. If I’m honest I had dismissed the idea to start with because I didn’t think it was a good idea to move in with a non-Christian. I knew how easily influenced I was, having only been treading my own path on this faith journey for a short time – but decided in the end to go for it – I needed the change, and it would get me closer to work. So I moved, about a year ago now. (I am happy in this house, and intend to stay as long as I am welcome.)

Now, there’s a side-line story here – happening adjacently to the one I’m telling – and that’s what was happening at work. I’d started my new job full of optimism and enthusiasm. Right industry, working with young people which is where I saw myself, and more money than I’ve earned before. Win win! However, only 2 weeks in to my new job I made the unfortunate mistake of making a distasteful joke about a colleague. No offence was meant, and it really was rather harmless – probably borne out of lack of confidence, and an attempt to ‘test the waters’ with the new people around me. However what unfortunately followed was an official complaint, a long, drawn out, formal grievance procedure and (worst of all) a permanently soured relationship with a new colleague. I struggled for the next eighteen months with what eventually became a workplace bullying issue, until I was totally depressed about my work life. I had lost the enthusiasm and zeal I started with and instead dreaded going in to the office. All the while I remained in denial about what was actually happening, refusing to believe that I could be ‘bullied’ and therefore refusing to address the issue with my line manager, colleagues or even friends.

Now, pair this work situation with the fact that I had removed myself from Christian community and I’m ashamed to say that the passion and assurance of God that is so evident reading my old posts diminished quickly. I gave way to apathy, resignation and self-protection. My old barriers went back up and although I maintained communication with certain trusted people, I was quickly reverting into old attitudes and habits. When my one remaining good, Christian friend went to Australia for 6 months in September I had nobody left to question the changes in me and all too easily I dried up. In April last year, I decided to take a month off from Church, in order to assess my motives. I wanted to see if I would miss it, or if it had become a thing of habit. Regretfully, I haven’t been back since. Now please understand me, I’m not justifying this at all! I know I need to be in fellowship. I want to be in fellowship! I miss fellowship! But I have become jaded and now struggle to see a way back. I am still trusting God, and know that in all this He has not changed. His heart towards me remains the same, and if anything I think I am more aware of His abounding mercy and grace as a result of my situation. I know He has purpose and I still know His purposes will prevail! But there is struggle, and I am sitting in the midst of it. As a Christian, I was taught what to do when I am persecuted by others. I was taught how to cope with grief or hardship or suffering. But no-one taught me how to react when the trials are of my own making…When we give in to our own temptations, or fall into old sinful habits. This is a unique kind of struggle which is lead more by guilt than anything else. But it is just as real. Just as much a part of the human condition, and of the faith journey we choose to walk as believers in Jesus.

I am thankful for the roots that were laid in my early life, and through the short years of training and discipleship I had, because what I do know is this – “that there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, and that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” and that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” and finally that “the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”

So here is what I have once again realised today. Finally. That although I am sitting at my desk in the middle of the night, weary, lonely, jaded and doubting – with more questions than answers, and more problems than solutions…my God has not changed. He is still in control. He is still faithful. He is still working in me. He meets my unfaithfulness with faithfulness. He meets my doubt with certainty. He meets my confusion with His glorious plans. He meets my pride with His humility. He covers my sin with His Son.

And He still see’s me. He still wants me. He still loves me.

I’ve been hearing the voice of the one who knows my name, but calls me by my sin. Lord let this be the moment I silence that voice in place of the one who knows my sin, but calls me by my name! Amen.

“I will not cause pain without allowing something new to born, says the Lord.” Isaiah 66:9 NCV

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QUOTE (John Newton) – July 24

Wonderful 🙂

A DEVOTED LIFE

John Newton, slave trader, abolitionist, minis...

“The glorious Gospel of the blessed God, with respect to its dignity, depth, and importance, may seem a fitter theme for the tongue of an angel than of a man; but angels never sinned; and though they might proclaim its excellency, they could not, from experience, speak of its efficacy. In this respect sinful worms are better qualified to preach to others, concerning him by whom they have, themselves, been healed and saved. Their weakness, likewise, is better suited to show that the influence and success of the Gospel is wholly owing to the power of God. It has, therefore, pleased God to ‘put this treasure into earthen vessels,’ [2 Corinthians 4:7] and to commit the ministry of his word, not to angels, but to men.”
~ John Newton

In honor of John Newton, former slave ship captain, Pastor, and author of “Amazing Grace”, who was born on this day…

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The Power of True Love

Wow…so insightful yet so simple. How often we over complicate the gospel, when all Jesus asked us to do is love. This is challenge enough to occupy a lifetime. Thanks for sharing. God bless 🙂

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I love animation.  I love the beautiful artwork and intricate details that go into an animated film.  I love the way a drawing on a piece of paper or computer can come to life and tell a story.  And I love Disney.  It probably comes as no surprise, then, that I absolutely adore Disney’s newest animated film, “Frozen.”

The movie is everything you could want from Disney: stunning animation, heartfelt music, well-rounded and developed characters, laughs for kids and adults as well, and a wonderful message.  And while the music is still going through my head and the characters are not ones that will easily be forgotten, it is the message that sticks with me the most.  It is a message that is common in movies; the power of true love.  But what is unusual in “Frozen” is that it shows true love as not just romantic love, but places…

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Still waters and crashing rivers…

Today Sharon (my housemate, and good friend) and I decided we were feeling a little claustrophobic and needed some countryside. We live right in the town centre, and all there is to be seen from any of our windows is bricks and walls! Every now and again, I begin to crave greenery and need to ‘get into nature’. So we jumped in the car and set off for the beautiful surroundings of a local National Trust court.

Upon our arrival we giggled as we navigated the mud (we’ve had a LOT of rain recently) and made our way through a lovely open valley towards a bridge over the stream.  Walking boots securely fastened I stepped boldly into the water. I stood for a moment and then a thought crossed my mind… “He leads me beside still waters”…but right now my life feels like more of a crashing river! In the last 48 hours I’ve been presented with about a million new decisions which all need to be made almost immediately… so of them not exactly small! What do I do about this that and the other? And if I do this, then can i still do that?..because it almost definitely means the other won’t work. My mind is awash with options and possibilities, and in my ever-so-human response… I start panicking. I try to work it out logically, make it fit and plan ahead whichever way seems most ‘sensible’. But here’s the thing, when I start to panic, I completely forget to stop and ask God what His opinion is on it all. I forget about the peace that transcends our human logic, and the sovereignty of a mighty God over our minuscule circumstance.

As I stood in that stream (and granted, it wasn’t still…but it was very calm and idyllic) in the beauty of His creation, it dawned on me to calm down, ‘let go and let God’. That’s not to say no action is required; I believe the Lord asks for our participation. But ultimately, the plan is His, the route is His, the method is His and the outcome is His… His Will, His Way!

Now I happen to love kayaking. I…love…it. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do much at all for the last couple of years, but nonetheless it is something I thoroughly enjoy. And here’s the thing about travelling on water. Still water is often beautiful. It is a lovely place to rest, especially if there is a pool along a hard river journey. You can lift your paddle, lean back and…rest. God wants this rest for us, He shows us in that wonderful Psalm 23…“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my souls”. (ESV) It is a beautiful thing to enter the rest of God, and there is appointed time for it. BUT… you can’t travel very far, or very fast on still water. It involves paddling hard, continuously and relentlessly – because still waters are not the place for progress!

Rivers, on the other hand…well, then we can travel. A fast flowing river, dotted with white water and plotted with hidden rapids is a motorway of the waters. This is an exciting place to be when you’re in a kayak. You’re alert, ready, poised and braced for anything the river throws at you. Sometimes, you feel like you’re going over…and sometimes you do go over! In that moment you need to get yourself upright so you can breathe again, which is a skill to be mastered. In a kayak… a crashing river is a place to make progress. Sometimes, God calls us out of our lovely still waters into the crashing rivers of decisions, responsibilities and pressure. He throws white water our way, tossing and turning our little boats – and we feel unsteady. But He knows, in His sovereignty, that we need to get downstream…to the next checkpoint on our journey.

That’s where I am this evening. I haven’t done all the things I woke up so acutely aware of this morning…because I’ve chosen to wait. Just a little while, and see where this river takes me. I’m alert, I’m poised and hopefully I’m ready to respond to the rivers challenges one at a time.

I’m sure there will be a blog to follow… we’ll see where I end up.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your sovereignty over my life. It is such an incredible comfort to know that You are in complete control. You created the rivers that you call me to paddle – and with your hands you placed still pools of rest along the way. Keep me poised Lord, keep me braced, and keep me ready in the knowledge that You are guiding the way. I love you, Amen xImage

The principles of our training…

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I am a sports science student – I spend my time studying the way our bodies work and change. I get to understand the intricacies of our physical reactions; the way we have to make rips in our muscles in order for them to get stronger, how our heart only gets more efficient if we put it under stress, how if we don’t take the time to properly recover…we will burnout and quit and how in all this there is incredible planning and preparation needed if we’re going to last the long haul.

I started my degree September last year, so I’m still pretty new to it. I had vowed when I left college that ‘I won’t go to Uni, I can’t take any more education’. I was absolutely at the ‘top of my game’ back then. Everything was going super smoothly, and I was succeeding in pretty much every area of my life. A few months before I left college though, the Lord graciously grabbed hold of my super-high-achieving life and wondrously tore it apart. At the time I had little more than a rather timid ‘yes’ to offer….and He took it. Since that time I have been on nothing short of a rollercoaster journey…although…if we’re talking fairground rides…maybe the teacups would be a better description! At last, last summer (2013) God started to peel back the layers of His plan, guiding me one step at a time – I am to become a teacher…which means doing a degree! Now I’ve come a long way in the last 2 years and my ‘yes’ was much less timid this time. So off I went, rose tinted glasses in hand, ready to take on the world.

Soon, those glasses came off and it started to hurt…the first term was hard! So quickly I fell into the wrong mind-set that ‘I must’ve got it wrong’ ‘I must’ve heard wrong…this can’t be right’. I began to doubt whether I should stay or count my losses and leave quietly. I had no stamina, no ability to endure, no perseverance. But by the grace of God and a good few truthfully encouraging chats with my dear mentor, I stayed. And then a few weeks ago I found myself writing a piece of coursework. The Lord removed the scales from my eyes and started to show me the significance of where He has VERY INTENTIONALLY placed me. I was writing about something called ‘The Principles of Training’, which are the guidelines we follow when planning training programmes. See if you can recognise some of the metaphors here… …

Specificity – the programme must be specific. There is little point training a jockey in weightlifting. It is going to do more damage than good to the ultimate goal. The training is specific to the goal, and keeps the end result in sight from start to finish.

Progression – the programme must always be progressing. There is to be no ‘standing still’ as the athlete will plateau and performance will not improve. When an athlete can run 10 miles, train for 15 miles…and when they’ve reached 15, we train for 20. We have to keep moving forward…plateaued programmes make plateaued athletes who will not win their race when the time comes.

Overload – (this one really got me) the body will not get stronger doing what it can already do. We have to push the athlete out of their comfort zone in order for them to improve. It is only at the point of resistance that growth will occur. Without overload we can only exist at a maintenance level.

Recovery – the athlete must be allowed to recover from training. The programme must allow for proper times of rest otherwise the athlete will become fatigued, lose motivation and adaptation stops (they cannot improve).

Tedium – finally, the programme has to be varied enough to avoid tedium. The psychological aspect of training is just as important as the physical. If an athlete is required to push through the same 50 drills everyday with no variety they are likely to get bored. If nothing ever changes and they are constantly faced with seemingly impossible challenges they will get bored and stop trying…some would even quit.

Now, there is more to it than that in my report…but that’s the essence of it. And it hit me in the face like a big revelation cream pie! Here, in what I was writing for my coursework, was the very reason I was there! It’s all there! If we are not specifically and progressively pushed beyond what is comfortable to the point where we often don’t think we can bear it…we won’t grow. It is in the place of pain, when we’ve already been running for miles and our legs are seizing up like concrete…when we’ve been pushing weights and lifting until our strength is all but gone…it’s at that point that we grow if we will just keep going that little bit further! And yes, there are times of rest, absolutely we rest…and we recover – that is crucial. But it is by training that we improve. Any athlete who has ever succeeded will tell you they had to work for it.

Now I used to train, physically. I was fit; I could run for miles, I was strong and do reasonably well at whatever sport I put my hand (or foot) to. But I never really trained spiritually. The level of spiritual fitness I had was the measure I had been given and nothing beyond. I was in ‘maintenance’ – uninterested in progressing to a goal I wasn’t really bothered about reaching. Now, a few years on, my physical fitness level has dropped (rather significantly)…but my spiritual training programme is well underway. I am being discipled by a wonderful Godly woman, I am pushing through barriers and by the grace of God I am overcoming the challenges set before me. I am discovering that our Lord is the master fitness coach. He knows exactly what it takes to plan my programme. He knows where I am at, and what it’s going to take to get me where I am going. He allows me time to recover, but does not let me ‘stand still’ in complacency…because that is when we quit. He keeps me progressing and knows how to fuel me when I’m in overload. And when I’m sweating, panting and seizing up…He runs alongside me, willing me on because He longs to see me grow.

The line is drawn now and I’ve set in my mind. I will finish my degree, but more than that I am determined to finish my race. My coach knows what He is doing, and I trust Him completely.

“…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5: 3-5.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your incredible sovereignty over my life. Thank you that even when I am ready to quit you have a plan for my growth. I pray Father that you would continue to train me for as long as I run my race. Make it progressive, make it uncomfortable, make it exciting and in the right time…may I rest. You are the master coach and I know that with you leading the way I will reach my finish line.