Small things with great love

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Well here we are at the end of another year. I am not quite sure how we got here because I swear it was only January yesterday – time is flying by far too quickly.

2016 for me personally you have been fine. Certainly you included lots of lovely times, celebrating special friends and their big birthdays, wonderful weddings, journeying with an amazing church family in new adventures. Your highlights have very much been bringing that beautiful baby into our family, and seeing my child grow and thrive. As with each year though you have bought with you some tears, some struggles and a fair share of heartbreak. I am learning though that that is simply life and that probably that is how most years look, that tension between the life-giving amazing moments, the ordinary normal, which in hindsight is probably where the special actually happens, and the hard painful moments which find you on your knees questioning why, how and what.

One thing is definitely for sure though from a world perspective 2016 will definitely be one that goes down in the history books. Brexit, Trump, the atrocities that fill our screens and newspapers on a daily basis, as well as an unprecedented number of well-known deaths. I guess we will all have watched on feeling hopeless, helpless and maybe a little despairingly.

If I am being honest the last couple of months I have felt disengaged, not really being able to connect with God properly or with life. Whilst life is generally good and I am so blessed I have at the same time felt a little overwhelmed and heavy- hearted watching pain unfold around me, in the lives of people I love and in the world at large. I feel helpless because I can’t make things better and I don’t really know how or what to pray. All I can do is try and show love in the midst of it all and I am not always sure I do that very well.

As I looked at all the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve, there was a tension in my heart between being thankful for all that I have, all the love and the material stuff, the massive blessings that I know in my life and which I am guessing you probably know too verses the discomfort of excess and abundance in light of all those who will have spent the festive period in very desperate circumstances.

Over the last few days I have sensed a glimpse of something rising up in me – hope maybe, or a light, definitely a desire to re-engage, a desire for more and to fight harder for people and life and love. As I come to the end of 2016 and get ready for 2017 I think my heart is mainly engaging with these three thoughts:

  1. Light in the darkness.

“In him was life and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1 vs 4-5

This verse has very much been the focus of advent for me. I find the darkness hard, I find it scary, it overwhelms, it leaves me confused and questioning but I don’t ever want to let it win – I always want to let the light shine brighter. I want to keep fixing my eyes on the one who is always light, who can always overcome the darkness.

I want to chose to keep inviting the light in, to keep believing it will always have power over the darkness, to keep praying that light into the hard broken places of this world and keep being that light for the people God has put around me – I may get that wrong some or a lot of the time but I want to always be willing to show up and  be that light.

The light has to win because I know from my own life that that light is our only hope, the only thing that can bring healing, transformation, redemption and restoration and ultimately life itself.

  1. A few weeks ago I was chatting to my wise skype lady in the States and she challenged me to change the way I question. So often when I hit a hard place, when I am struggling to make sense of things I get tied up in the why questions.

“Why has this happened?”

“Why me/us/them?”

“Why God have you not stepped in and changed this situation?”

The list could go on and on – as one of my wise friends often tells me I am trying to square the circle and that ain’t ever going to happen.

I was challenged to respond to say “Ok God you have me in this place how do you want me to respond, what part do you want me to play in this particular story and what do you want to teach me through it?”

I loved that challenge because it unlocked something deep inside me and as I go into a new year that is how I want to face every adventure, challenge and struggle that comes my way. I want those two questions to dictate how I respond to life in all its craziness, in all its weirdness and in all its beauty.

  1. I love the Queen. Those who know me well will testify just how much – in fact one of my Christmas presents was a blow up crown and another was a royal colouring book. She is my hero.

In her Christmas Day speech this year she quoted Mother Theresa “Not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love.” She went on to talk about the fact that sometimes the world’s problems seem so big that we can do little to help.

“On our own we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.”

Her Majesty went on to talk about the example of Christ, the example she bases her life around, because his example allows her to see the value of doing small things with great love.

“The message of Christmas reminds us that inspiration is a gift to be given as well as received and that love begins small but always grows.”

I love those words – words that answer that overwhelming helplessness – just start small and always with love. A response which we are all capable of.

So as I come to threshold of 2017 these are 3 things I am taking with me, that light that always shines brighter, that response of “God what part do you want me to play and what do you want me to learn” and doing small things with great love. As I focus on them, as I have sat and put them down in words, an excitement and an anticipation fills my heart at all the possibilities and potentials.

Wishing you a peaceful and light and love filled 2017.

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Beauty in the broken things

So he has been gone nearly 10 years, a decade – that seems like a crazy, long amount of time, so much has happened, so many tears alongside the laughter, so much pain followed by amazing and beautiful healing, more loss and new life, the ordinary alongside the extra-ordinary, old faithful friends and lovely, life-giving new friends.

He was part of my life for such a short time. If you drew a time-line of my hopefully 80 years odd he would take up such a short part of it but yet the depth of his impact will always be greater than any other. Loving him and losing him changed me for the rest of my days.

So many lessons that he taught me after he had gone. Lessons of holding on, of forgiveness and grace, of keeping on loving even when it hurts and its hard, of trusting, of choosing life and not bitterness, of identity, of faith, of community. So many beautiful and life-giving lessons which could only have come through the agony, the desperation, the loss, the emptiness. Would I have chosen those lessons over having him here? NO absolutely not! But there wasn’t an either or option, I didn’t get to chose how it played it out I could only walk the path I had been given. I haven’t always walked it well, in fact a lot of the time it has been hideously messy but I have learnt that what God desires most is intimacy with us and the only way that that can happen is through broken lives and mess – it is how the joy comes, where the healing is done and where the lives are transformed.

Ask those that know me well and they will tell you I probably overuse the word “favourite” – I have lots of favourite people and things, but if I had to chose my favourite lesson that I have learnt over the past decade it would be that there is always beauty in the brokenness.

This morning I have woken up with the image of Kintsugi strongly on my heart. I think it is probably God reminding me in the midst of my heart hurting for people I love that he is all about healing, restoration, redemption and transformation. He is whispering in his tenderness the truths that however big the mess is, however great the pain, there is always a way, always.

A while back my lovely boss sent me an email about Kintsugi. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repaired pottery. Broken pottery is repaired with lacquer dusted or mixed with powered gold, silver or platinum. The idea is that the bowl becomes more beautiful for having been broken, that the breakage and repair become part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. There is an embracing of the imperfect and the flawed. I love that image.

Again this morning God is saying to me

“Isn’t that the same way you should view your life and the lives of others around you?”

So often we are ashamed of our brokenness, of the mistakes, of our pasts, of our tragedies. What I love about following Jesus is that he turns it all on its head and views it the opposite way. Messy is the currency God works in.

I love that with Jesus tragedy is not the end. I love that if we let him he can take the pieces of our broken lives and make something new and amazing. I love that he is all about restoration and redemption. I love that, with Jesus, the fact I was a widow at 29 was not the end of the story but maybe just the beginning. I love that the years of pain and agony were not wasted.

I love that with Jesus not one of us is beyond his love – no situation is hopeless with him. No person is beyond his forgiveness, his love and his power.

I love that even when we make the biggest of mistakes or when the unimaginable has happened, there is always a way out, always an answer and always hope with Jesus.

I love that Jesus takes our disappointment and moulds it into something new. Disappointment has been one of my greatest battles – disappointment that my life hasn’t end up how I thought it would but as we let go of the controls and give him the control we are taken on an adventure we could never imagine, way beyond our disappointments.

I love that Jesus never intended us to walk alone. I love that in the most broken of times, when our lives feel in pieces it is often when our relationships with him and with others are forged deeper and stronger. I love those real, authentic and vulnerable relationships, that are such gifts, and are so beautiful – that are always worth the risks they carry.

Life gets messy, our hearts break, our lives at times are shattered but it is never the end of the story– there is such hope and promise in Jesus, that he will take those broken pieces and rebuild it into something new and beautiful.

I am so thankful for those in my life that live this stuff out, who inspire me, whose lives have been broken but who are so incredibly special because of that brokenness, whose stories shine the beauty, who pour into the lives of others with wisdom, compassion and life because of their experiences. I want to always stand on my story and their stories  for other people in their brokenness always believing for the beauty.