What makes you come alive?

IMG_3174The last few weeks I have been asking God lots of questions about what this year is to look like, what he wants me to spend my time doing, where I am meant to be, with whom – I feel like those prayers have been on repeat, over and over and over again. I want to do what God is asking me to do but I am not totally sure what that is.

Every morning as I am straightening my hair I read this little devotional app, called DVO, by an Australian couple – the last week or so has been about calling and destiny and they have asked these questions:

What makes you tick?

What makes your body feel fluid and warm?

What keeps you up at night?

What makes you angry?

What gives you hope?

What captures your attention?

What floods you with light?

What fills you with dread?

I have thought about these questions lots as I have been praying my same prayer over and over. What makes me come alive?

What makes you come alive?

Alongside these reflections and challenges is one of the constant soundtracks of my life which is that of “legacy” – legacy in one context or another has been part of the entirety of my working life. I am an expert in death and all its friends, in more ways than one. This present chapter of my working life finds me in a much more positive aspect of “legacy” and as part of what I do I get the privilege of reading the life stories of people that have supported our charity. I love these stories, as my colleagues will testify, as I am constantly telling them. I love reading about people’s ups and downs, the lessons learnt, what they are remembered for. I wish I could share some of the stories – on the face of it very ordinary lives but leaving extraordinary gifts behind them.

It has really challenged and inspired me – what am I putting down in my life now that impacts on the legacy I will leave when I am gone?

What do you want your legacy to be? If and when someone is reading about your life when you are no longer here what do you want the words to say?

As I have been thinking, wrestling, considering I think a realisation has settled in my heart that actually I don’t need to be great or significant in terms of what I achieve in my life, to leave a valuable legacy. I just need to do what makes me come alive, what God made me to be and do, all with a lot of love, and that in itself will be pretty special.

The other week I was talking to someone about them reaching a big milestone birthday and they were questioning what they had really achieved in their life to date.

Maybe it is just me that falls into this trap, this lie that I need to be achieving something amazing, some big career success, writing a book, being a great speaker, highly creative etc. etc. – to really be shining in something to be creating something of value, to be extraordinary. The truth is I am not extraordinary, I am not particularly really good at any one thing – I am fairly ordinary, fairly mediocre but actually what is settling in my heart is that that is ok, we are not all called to extraordinary, many of us are meant to be ordinary and rather than striving for something we think we should be doing, achieving, or shining in we need to find the thing that God wove into our beings from the beginning, the things he gave us that make us come alive and pursuing those things with all that we are.

It got me thinking about my mum or MJ (Mummy Jane) or GJ (Granny Jane) as she is referred to in our family. MJ is pretty normal, outside of our family and her friends she is nothing out of the ordinary. She has spent the majority of her adult life caring for my Dad, me and my brother and now her grandchildren. She hasn’t had a big career, she hasn’t achieved anything special in the world’s eyes. Only last week my child was poorly and was off school all week and my mum stayed with her the whole week, putting aside all her plans – 5 days of not leaving the house, just sitting with her, cuddling her, reading with her and playing games. This week she is with her new granddaughter, my niece, cooking and cleaning for my brother and sister-in-law, helping them with the baby. How blessed are those cousins. No set of children or grandchildren will have been prayed over and for more – I know there have been many a sleepless night for my mum when she has done battle for us. My mum’s legacy will be one of family, one of faithfulness, and one of prayer and what a pretty amazing legacy that is.

So for me I know that what makes me come alive is people, is relationships, is conversation, is words – I love people, I love hurting people (to clarify I don’t love causing hurt!!) , I love praying, I love writing, I love making new friends – I have no idea what those “loves” are going to look like this year or where they are going to take me but I am talking to God, asking him to show me, and each day I am trying to chose to hold his hand tight, as I find out more and more what makes me come alive and what I want my legacy to be.

“Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because that the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman

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And the truth will set you free

This follows on a bit from what I wrote about a few weeks ago but it is something that feels like is weighing on my heart really heavily and normally that means I just need to write it out.

Do you ever lie? Big or small lies – do you ever tell them?  I am not talking about lies we may or may not tell to other people but rather the lies we tell ourselves. I am pretty sure that the answer for the majority of us would be a big YES to those questions.

I do it all the time – I am not good enough to do what is being asked of me. I am not interesting enough. I am not attractive enough. I am not a good enough mum. I am not holy enough. And so the list goes on.

I hear friends tell these lies all the time about themselves. I can recognise the lies much more easily when my friends are telling them about themselves than when I hear them about myself in my own heart.

Last year I had to do a lot of letting go of my time in my previous job and it has been painful in many ways. I worked there for 11 years and it had become a big part of who I was and had been the steady factor when a lot of my life was being pulled from under me – it was the one thing that didn’t change. Not long after I had moved jobs I sat chatting with one of my oldest friends, who has known me most of my life – someone who is one of the most rational and level headed people I know, a thinker to my feeler. My friend asked me how I felt about the job stuff and I said to her that I felt like I had failed. She told me very clearly that for 10 years I had thrived in the job, that I had had many successes, passed exams and been promoted in spite of really tough personal circumstances and that what had happened in the last 8 months had not been my fault and was not indicative of my abilities and the rest of my time there. She very firmly spoke truth into the lies my heart was telling me. It was so releasing to hear those truths and every time I hear the lies I remind myself of that conversation.

At the beginning of December I had signed up to do a 10k race but1.5k into that race my ankle went, my whole body seem to go and mentally I felt like I had gone too – I knew I couldn’t continue. I had only done a 10k race a few months before and had been training in between and whilst I knew the last 2 or 3 k would be tough I had been regularly running 6 to 7k without too much issue. I felt so humiliated as I had to hobble back to the start, through the spectators, and spent the rest of the day in tears or very close to them. By the end of that day I was ready for the day to end, to sleep and wake up to a new day and a new week. I was really struggling with a heavy feeling of failure. The next day a friend emailed me to see how I was feeling and I told her I felt sad and like I had failed and the response I received was pretty firm but loving, clearly telling me that it was far from the end of the world, these things happen and reminding me of all that I had achieved and survived and that that made me far from a failure. It was exactly what I would have said to a friend in my position so why couldn’t I be kinder to myself? Why couldn’t I see or believe the truth?

Feeding into these lies are the lies that our culture, our society tells us. Those messages that we don’t have enough or we aren’t enough, and that we would be better off with more or in some way different.  I am a monkey when it comes to clothes – I love clothes. I can always justify a new top – ALWAYS! I buy into those lies that it will make me be a better person but without exception the shine wears off within days.  For others it may be shoes, or music, or gadgets, or their house or holidays.

I think sometimes we have told ourselves/heard these lies so often that we believe them to be truth.

I have been really challenged recently to almost have a list of truths that I memorise – that every time a lie comes into my head I can speak against it – whether that it a scripture, or a quote or just words I know are right.

  • You are valuable.
  • You are precious, adored and cherished.
  • You are worthwhile.
  • You are a child of God, of the King.
  • You are not a mistake – God knew you before you were born, he has a plan and a purpose for your life.
  • You are loved.
  • You are good enough just as you are.

As I have come to the beginning of this year I have felt a little overwhelmed, it feels like a big blank canvass and I have struggled a little bit to say goodbye to 2015 as it was so amazing and so crazy and so full of transformation and hope. I have no idea what this year holds, absolutely no idea and I am a little scared it won’t be able to top 2015!

I feel like seeds have planted in my heart and head about the future, about things I would like to have a go at, about possibilities and potentials but each time I think on those things I hear a little voice saying “but surely you don’t think that is possible or that you could do that”, “how would that ever work financially” but the biggest by far is “what will people think”, “would people think I am not good enough”.

Maybe I won’t be good enough to do those things, and maybe those ideas will come to nothing. Maybe people will think I am stupid or not like me but what I have realised more and more is that those insecurities usually focused around what other people think of me are more about me than them and so what if people don’t agree, or don’t like me as a result – I know the one who loves me unconditionally and I also know there are plenty of people who do have my back.

I feel like that about my writing – each time I go to press the publish button I sit there deliberating, fearful of what people will think but I feel so strongly I have to keep writing until God tells me to stop that I have to trust it has a purpose.

I want to live in truth and in freedom from the lies. I want to live a simple life loving God and loving people. When the lies take hold they taint all those things – I may be on my own here but when those lies take hold I struggle to come before God vulnerably and honestly, they affect relationships because I almost start believing that my insecurities are what other people think of me and most definitely those lies don’t allow me to see me how God sees me.

More and more I know that the only way to live in that freedom and that truth is to come and be with God, to talk to him, to listen, and to learn. If I don’t invest that time the lies win out.

I also know that we need to be people who speak truth over one another, who speak love and encouragement, – when we recognise the truth in someone else’s life, when we see the good in them, when we recognise their amazingness, we need to be speaking that over them and into them. We need those people in our lives and we need to be those people.

So as I face a New Year I am going to hold on to these words I read on New Year’s Day:

“Just humbly live every day doing what you love, doing what you can with what you have: dare to do. And you never know where you’ll find yourself come 2017.” (DVO)

I am going to keep saying yes to the opportunities that come along, keep taking risks, as each day I come before God giving him my insecurities, the lies and rubbish that hold me back, asking for his plans and purposes, that he will set his dreams in my heart and resting and learning more of his truths.

And if today you are struggling to hear the truth know that you are precious, that you are so so valuable – that you were and are wonderfully created, and that there is hope and a future for you.