Friday, 22 August 2014

I Have Moved!!!! And... God Works In Mysterious Ways

I have moved my blog to a new home - - so if you have been reading any of my posts, please do follow me over there!

The links aren't quite all set up yet, and there are a few things I have to finalise, but I thought I'd better start posting on there or I'd never get around to it!

Here is the start of my newest post:


Do you ever wonder why God allowed something to happen?

I recently read about a bunch of times like these in a missionary’s first year working in the jungles of Ecuador, South America. The missionary was Elisabeth Elliot and she had taken a summer course in how to get a language written down so that it could be made into a Bible for those who don’t have the Bible in their own language.

She went out to live near the tribe of the Colorado Indians to set to work at writing their language down. However in just that one year many things happened which challenged her views of God...

To read the rest of this post please hop over to my new website!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Why I Like Schedules

Ever since I was an overwhelmed housewife early on in our marriage and a good friend from Campus Crusade for Christ showed me how to schedule, I have kept one going. In fact I change my schedule almost every month, to try and make it work better!

There were times when I got fed up with them and stopped using them, but that was really because I’d become a slave to my schedule.

That meant that I had become very inflexible, so if my husband wanted something doing and it didn’t fit in with my schedule I would get very stressed about it because I would get behind on everything else. Or I would say I couldn’t do it, and then not be very helpful to my husband!

At other times I have had a schedule on my wall and basically forgotten about it because it required discipline and diligence to stick to it and I was too tired.

However I think I have found a better balance now, and I was thinking the other day about why I like schedules so much. The biggest reason for me is that it means I don’t have to think, and I can try to make sure I’m not basing what I do on my feelings, but on decisions I made when I was looking at the big picture.

Because my boss is really Christ, who is my Master, but He doesn’t give me very specific directions on how to spend my time, that means I have lots of decisions all through the day. But the problem with that is that when I am tired (most of the time) I don’t feel like doing very much. So my decision making will naturally tend towards the easy life.

At other times there is a lot going on, since we also do a lot of ministry, so at those times my decisions will be governed by what is the most urgent. But then often that will mean other things fall behind that don’t cry out to be done, like laundry, devotions and so on.

The beauty of a schedule is that when I’m feeling awful and think, “What shall I do next?”, I can just tell myself to stick to my schedule. Then the important things get done, and I don’t have to make all those decisions which I feel too tired to make about what to do next.

When there is a lot going on, I can look at my schedule and decide what can be dropped in order to do those urgent things, but also keep up the other jobs as scheduled.

This way I am able to be diligent and not be governed by my feelings which usually let me down, and it helps me to make time for those things which otherwise would not get done because though they are important they are not urgent.

Here are some tips for scheduling from my experience of making lots of them:

  • Make sure you give yourself quite a bit of pad – so if lunch should take 45 mins, give yourself an hour. Especially when you have kids you need this for the constant needs and questions (and messes :)) they have!
  • When you sit down and make it, try to take everything into account that is important for you to do, and pray. That way when later you don't feel like sticking to it, you can remind yourself that at the time you made it you were weighing up all the factors so it should be the best use of your time!
  • Don’t schedule your slots too small or it will become very stressful – I usually schedule roughly an hour at a time.
  • Don’t just schedule your work time, schedule your free time too. We should redeem the time and glorify God with all of it, so it’s good to think about that too, even if some of it is written in as ‘rest’.
  • Don’t be too high idealistic. If you are getting up at 8am and want to get up at 6am, I wouldn’t schedule yourself to get up then because it probably won’t happen. It would be better to schedule yourself to get up half an hour earlier and then once you’ve got that working for a couple of weeks try another half hour earlier etc. This is one of my weaknesses since I always look at what I want to do and schedule myself to get up really early, but then it rarely works so I end up discouraged!
  • If your days are different, try making a weekly schedule with different things on different days.
  • Above all, be flexible! Don’t be a slave to your schedule, but make it your servant. If something more important comes up then don’t worry about dropping something on your schedule if necessary. I use mine more as a guideline nowadays and it works a lot better that way.
If you want to read more on making a schedule from a Christian perspective, there is a great book called Managing Yourself which I have done a review on over here, and it goes through setting long-term and short-term goals, and then bringing that down to your daily life and planning them in.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A True Servant’s Heart

Do you ever see something that needs doing, and think, “That’s not my job, someone else can do that.”?

Often in work we have to do this, to separate out our own jobs so that we can focus, otherwise we’d never get our own responsibilities done. And often in normal life there are people paid to do certain jobs, and we need to leave it to them - like taking the dishes back to the kitchen in a restaurant for example!

But what about when we're at home, or we’re serving in an area in church, and this happens?

This morning my son was doing his daily chore of washing up the breakfast dishes and complained to me about a puddle of tea on the counter. I said to him, “Well you can just wipe it up, you know – the cloth is right there.” To which he replied, “Wipe it UP?????” as if I’d asked him to jump off a cliff or something!!

He was obviously thinking, “But that’s not my job!” – which is how many of us would react inwardly in that situation!

That’s why I loved it when I read this morning about the duties of the Levites who served God in the temple in Israel – and it says they did “whatever needed to be done.”

David arranged for Asaph and his fellow Levites to serve regularly before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, doing whatever needed to be done each day. 1 Chronicles 16:37 (NLT)

I think as Christians that should be our work ethic when we're serving God – to do whatever needs to be done.

If you own a company you are likely to do whatever needs to be done, including cleaning toilets, in order to make sure it makes a profit.

If we are part of a church, I think we should take the attitude that we’ll do whatever needs to be done for God to be glorified, just like the Levites did in the temple.

So if we’re serving in the worship team that day and see a mess that needs to be spilled and have a few spare minutes, we should go clean it up. We should be willing to go and serve in the toilet cleaning ministry if that is where we’re most needed!

In 1 Chronicles 23 it goes into more detail of what the Levites' duties entailed at the temple. Some were full-time musicians which must have been fun.  Some were gatekeepers – that’s all they did. I know I'd rather be a musician!

But the choir director said:  ‘I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.” Psalm 84:10 (NLT)

I was trying to teach my kids about serving the other day and how important it is, and this verse came to mind:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28

That is a true servant’s heart – to be like Jesus and be the servant of others, and to do whatever needs to be done, like the Levites, in order that God might be glorified. 

Monday, 14 April 2014

Our Commanding Officer

When I was at university I joined the Officer Training Corps, with the intention of becoming an army doctor one day. Sometimes we went away for weekends and I was introduced to the wider world of the army, like higher ranking officials, the officer's mess, marching, and getting up early every morning to exercise.

Our Commanding Officer was the highest ranking person we ever saw there, and he would occasionally come into view at specific events. I had a lot of respect for him because of his position, but one day my respect grew even more.

It was the day of our Combat Fitness Test, which we all had to pass in order to stay in the army. We had to do a long run, kitted out with a full and weighted backpack. When that was finished we had to clamber up into the back of an army truck, back down again, and then run a distance carrying two large and heavy water carriers.

I had not long ago come off crutches because of breaking my ankle, so I was not one of the most fit people there and was quite anxious about whether I would be able to complete the test or not!

We all set off running, and before long I was at the back with a couple of others, just trying to keep going. What stood out to me about that day was that our Commanding Officer, this high up person who we'd never talked to and we were all afraid of, ran WITH us the whole way. And what's more, he spent quite some time at the back with us stragglers just encouraging us to keep going.

We all made it to the finish line and passed. But I'm not so sure we would have done without him being there!

That has always been a picture to me of how good leaders get down in the dirt with those they are leading, willing to do the same as them, and encouraging them along the way.

God has also done that with us. He didn't just stay aloof, but sent his son Jesus down to earth. He was also tempted as we were:

"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." Heb 4:15

Jesus is the Commander of the Lord's Army (Joshua 5:13-15), and just like my Commanding Officer he showed us that we could do it and encouraged us by going through it Himself.

What's even better than that, is that He can give us actual strength (which my Commanding Officer couldn't do) if we are dependent on Him:

'And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.' 2 Cor 12:9

So we can be encouraged that as we run this race and fight through opposition, trials and temptations, Jesus has been through the same thing and will give us strength to follow Him. 

One of my favourite passages of Scripture reminds of this, and tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. I love it so much that I have memorized it and I encourage you to do the same! Or at least just say it out loud and slowly - it has more impact that way :)

Therefore we also, 
since we are surrounded 
by so great a cloud of witnesses, 
let us lay aside every weight, 
and the sin which so easily ensnares us, 
and let us run with endurance 
the race that is set before us, 
looking unto Jesus, 
the author and finisher of our faith, 
who for the joy set before Him, 
endured the cross, 
despising the shame 
and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 
Therefore consider Him 
who endured such opposition 
from sinful men against Himself, 
lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 
You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, 
striving against sin.
Hebrews 12:1-4

Monday, 31 March 2014

Moving on After Failure

This is something we heard in yesterday's sermon, called 'Recovering from Setbacks.' The Israelites tried to attack a city and failed because someone in their camp had hidden sin. But when they dealt with it, God forgave them and then wanted them to go right back and fight again.

What Clint pointed out yesterday is that God wants us to go back to taking ground after we have failed. But to do that we need to stop dwelling on our past sin and instead repent, get back up again and move on. "Live in the victory of the shadow of the cross."

'For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, 
But the wicked shall fall by calamity.' 
Proverbs 24:16

Saturday, 29 March 2014

What Steals Your Joy?

As we were driving back from The Netherlands recently, we were listening to the pastor of our home church in America, Pastor Dave Rolph. He said something very interesting:

"All Satan has to do is steal your joy, 
and then he has your strength"

I've known the verse 'The joy of the Lord is your strength' probably from before I could read, as I remember singing the song when I was very little. But I've never thought of it back to front like that. If your joy in the Lord goes, then your strength will also go - it makes sense doesn't it?

But then that got my brain whirring... if that is the case then I need to figure out how Satan steals my joy so I can be on my guard against it and maybe stop it from happening! Lack of strength is a big deal to me, since I am a stay at home mother and homeschool three kids and it takes a lot out of me.

Here's some ideas of things that can steal my joy, and probably yours too. If you have more ideas please comment at the end and let me know!
  • Sin - in the well known psalm where David repents of his adultery and murder, he says, "Restore unto me the joy of my salvation." One of the effects of sin is that we forfeit our joy of the Lord and of our salvation. For me this often manifests as laziness, meaning that I go to bed late and don't do what I should do which leads to tiredness and discouragement. Also overeating - gluttony - which leads to feeling guilty at my lack of self-control.
  • Tiredness - if I don't get enough rest then gradually over time I start feeling down, and if I don't get enough sleep then everything the next day is so much more difficult.
  • Worry - we can worry about what is happening in our lives or other people's.
  • Other people - other people can steal our joy if we let them, through their comments and actions, because we are all sinners, or we might get justly rebuked!
What can we do about these things? Well I think it could help if we find out individually where Satan tends to steal our joy, as it is probably different for everyone. Then maybe we can figure out ways to help prevent it. 

For me this would mean continuing my ongoing struggle against sin, making sure I get enough rest and sleep, and taking my worries to God in prayer. 

But also more than anything realising that God wants us to have joy, 'Rejoice in the Lord always' so if we're losing that joy we need to fight back to get it. We can even have joy in the midst of affliction (2 Cor 7:4, 8:2, James 1:2) which is probably a challenge for most of us!

"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.' James 1:2-4

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

My Very First Quilt!

I did say a few posts back that I was making my first quilt and I would post a photo when I've finished, so here goes!

For a long time I haven't really been into crafts. I used to make a lot when I was younger, but then GCSEs, A-levels and University took over and I was too busy. Following those, I was soon married and helping my husband with fulltime ministry alongside trying to run a household. Then children came along and lots of house moves!

I think also, when I was 18 and fully gave my life over to God, I was so caught up with seeking God's kingdom that many other things besides reaching souls and discipleship seemed insignificant in comparison.

However now I have a 6 year old daughter, and last year I read  Little House in the Big Woods to the children as part of our Sonlight curriculum. In there it talked about how Laura and her sister, who was about Hope's age, would sew and knit clothes for their dolls.

I immediately thought, "Wow, Hope would love that!" She really likes crafts, just as I did when I was younger. So I resolved that I would try and learn to knit so I could teach her. I had once tried to learn when I was younger but it ended in tears!

So a kind lady from church taught some of us who were interested how to knit, and then I went on to teach Hope. I think that sparked my interest in crafts again as I realised it was fun to be able to make clothes for Hope's dolls, and it was also a very sociable hobby.

I can't blog or read and talk to my husband. But I can knit and talk at the same time! And while I wasn't very fond of the beach, I could take some knitting along there and it would make it more interesting while the children played.

My mother is a great quilter, which you can see if you look at her amazing blog. But I had always thought that I would never do that - a year to make a quilt just sounds toooo long! Then one day we went to Costco and I was looking at the books (very predictably) and my eyes suddenly lighted upon a book with beautiful colours.

It was a Patchwork book by Cath Kidston, with a kit on the inside to make a cushion, and photos of really pretty fabrics on the front. All the projects looked quite small and doable and I thought that would make a really fun birthday present for myself as well as for a lot of other people I know! So I ended up with it :)

Then a good friend was expecting a baby and I started to think of what I could make for her, and looked through that book along with another similar one my mum had given me. There was a project for a baby quilt in there which was labelled as taking 3 hours. That definitely sounded doable. So I decided to go for it and ask my mum to help me with anything I got stuck with!

It definitely took waaaay longer than 3 hours but it was a lot of fun. I think what took longer is the fact that I hand pieced it together rather than doing it with the sewing machine, and then instead of tying knots through it to quilt it like the book suggested, I did actually quilt it properly (although I resisted my mum's hint that I might like to hand quilt it and decided on the sewing machine instead since by that time the baby was already born!).

Here are some photos:

My first two fabrics cut into squares. I was so excited at this point that I had to take a photo and send it to my mum! I based all the colours around a lovely farmyard fabric I found on ebay. I figured if I did a farm rather than baby owls or bears, it might stay fun even after the baby has grown a bit! The batik fabric I just couldn't resist because I loved the colours too much.

This is all the fabrics cut into squares and arranged. We took final photo from above so I could make sure it looked OK! 

Here is my brand new quilting tin my mother gave me, with all the rows of squares pinned together in the right order so I wouldn't forget how to put them together.

A cup of tea and some hand piecing with my lovely chinese baby pin cushion :)

Quilting a sample

My mum showing me the ropes on her sewing machine. I didn't dare borrow it without her being there as I was too scared of something going wrong and I didn't want to break it!

Actually quilting!

All the quilting done, now just the border to go...

And the finished product

Complete with baby!

I was reading in Exodus this morning, and struck as I always am when I read it, at how God gifted the artisans who made everything for the tabernacle:

'All who are gifted artisans among you shall come and make all that the Lord had commanded'...'All the women who were gifted artisans spun yarn with their hands'...'And all the women whose hearts stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goats hair'...'See the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works'

What I take from that is that God gifts us for crafts as well as other things, and we can use them for His glory and minister to others with them. Just like Dorcas did who made tunics and garments for widows, and the excellent wife of Proverbs 31 who made tapestry, linen garments and willingly worked with her hands. 

Here are some benefits of crafts and making things as I was thinking about the woman of Proverbs 31 today:
  • She made her home beautiful
  • She brought profit to the family by selling what she made
  • She kept busy and was not idle
  • It's a constructive way of using rest and relaxation time
  • Creativity is reported to reduce stress
  • It can bless others
I still don't see myself making a quilt that takes a year to make, though one day if my husband decides to part with his Hawaiian shirts I might make a quilt out of those! In the meantime I am learning to crochet and making booties and hats for some other little babies in our church!

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