My Year of Changing the Way I Worship

worship

I remember it so distinctly. I was at a conference that my church puts on yearly, in different cities around the world. I had flown in to this particular city to serve on team, the people around me, unfamiliar. Opening night I was stood at the back of one section and as the lights dimmed for the beginning of worship and Taya’s familiar voice filled the arena, I heard someone excitedly whisper, “oh, here it is, it’s THE SONG”.

“You call me out upon the waters…The great unknown where feet may fail…”

They were so excited about hearing this song that was sweeping the nation, in churches and radio, in person! And, to be completely honest I was sort of annoyed. Did they not understand that yes, this song was beautiful and Taya slays it, but it’s so much more.

“And I will call upon Your name…And keep my eyes above the waves…When oceans rise…My soul will rest in Your embrace…For I am Yours and You are mine…”

Worship is personal, so I asked myself why it bothered me. I mean, who am I to judge? But, it was that moment I realised that it was the Holy Spirit gently making me aware of how often I sing songs in church, that barely touch my lips, let alone my heart.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…Let me walk upon the waters…Wherever You would call me…Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…And my faith will be made stronger…In the presence of my Saviour…”

That was October 2014. I was officially graduating from my MSc in a couple weeks and soon to start a new job (I didn’t know I was hired yet, and nor did I know that 2015 was going to be one of the most blessed, fun, horrible, tumultuous years of my life). But that night I decided that if I was going to worship, I would do it with all my heart. That I would change the way I worshipped. If I was going to lead people in worship then I had to lead myself first in the way I worshipped.

So, I gave myself a bit of a rule. If I wasn’t in “the mood” to worship, I would stop, pray and refocus, as much as I needed, to keep my heart continually focused and in the right place. I would sing because I meant it, I would praise because He deserves to be praised. I would worship because I am a thankful. I wouldn’t sing words, I would sing prayers. Practically speaking I also listened to more worship music than I have ever listened to. I changed my alarms to worship music to remind me to start the day thankful and appreciative. I took moments, turned off all distractions, put on songs like “It is Well” or “We Dance” and literally stood, sat, danced…I let myself be romanced. (no, not in that freakish “I am dating Jesus” way, but in the allow-the-Holy-Spirit-To-wash-over-You kind of romanced.

Yea, so that’s not as easy as it sounds. Like any habit in your life it takes a lot of practice and discipline. A lot.

It’s crazy. I wish I could say that this conviction brought me into some existential, blissful existence, but if you remember, a couple of paragraphs up I mentioned that 2015 wasn’t so hot.

You see, when you prayerfully sing “I will call upon Your name…Keep my eyes above the waves…My soul will rest in Your embrace…I am Yours and You are mine…” God tests you. And tested over and over again I was. And over and over again I vowed to keep my promise to practice this new habit.

And thus began an aspect of 2015 that I haven’t shared with anyone. I guess I never felt ready or wasn’t sure, or maybe it’s that it’s still a daily practice that I haven’t perfected. Much like my commitment to going to the gym 6 days a week. I know it shows results, but it doesn’t mean I am always consistent.

Full disclosure: My nearest and dearest will know that I have had times where I was still a wreck and worried, fretted, cried, but it was a lot less than other trying times in my life. 

So, before this post ends I will share what my year of worshipping prayerfully brought to me and my relationship with God.

Peace. When my heart was continually focused on His promises, Who God is, on worshipping Him, I didn’t have space to worry.

Hope. When I sang words like “My soul will rest in Your embrace…For I am Yours and You are mine” I was reminded of all the times that He carried me, blessed me, moved my life forward even when I was less than deserving.

Joy. Your grace abounds in deepest waters…Your sovereign hand…Will be my guide” When I reminded myself, over and over again, that His grace abounds, that I am saved and made free, I could remain joyful in times of sorrow and pain, even when the world felt like it was collapsing around me.

Patience. When I couldn’t see my next steps, I sang “Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me…You’ve never failed and You won’t start now…” I reminded myself of all the times before that He held me up.

Finally, Closer. You know that God only wants the best for you? And that whole “be careful what you pray for?” Ya well when you pray “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…And my faith will be made stronger…In the presence of my Savior…” HE ACTUALLY DOES IT. And that’s just one example. I began to realise that the more I prayed prayers that taught me to seek God, to seek the characteristics of Christ that would lead me into deeper, closer relationship with Him, it truly infiltrated all areas of my life. Yeah, a lot of it really hurt, but it was beautiful when the words I once sang as prayers of a desired relationship, became words that described my relationship with God.

And to be honest, it simply brought honesty back into my life and relationship with God. Worship isn’t always an idealistic, focused time with God. Just this Sunday my blood sugar was so low, my mind was elsewhere and worship was okay. It took a LOT of effort to focus. A year ago I would have gone through the motions and left. Instead I reminded myself why I was there, WHO I was worshipping and refocused. I think it’s what they call conviction (wink wink). It’s not about guilt, you can’t build a relationship out of guilt, it’s about an honest, no holds barred, sincere relationship with God.

And dang it’s amazing.

 

 

 

 

An Unapologetic Year

image2 (1)

“You know what attracted you to me? The way you don’t apologise for who you are”

That was 4 years ago and somewhere between that conversation, all the moments, circumstances and conversations past, and the present I changed.

Sure, I tried to get it back. Half-heartedly really; I even began 2015 with a drive to kick some butt. I even wrote a blog about it. I said I wouldn’t be afraid to sing again…

Now, it wasn’t that I completely lost myself, I even took a few steps forward. I got a bit of my backbone together again, I took a huge step in my health (and constantly need to remind myself of that), I achieved a few good bits.

But when I look in the mirror I noticed one thing.

I lost the light in my eyes.

I was looking through some old photos and wondered what was different. Yeah my hair was different, but that’s not abnormal. I am thinner now. Okay, fine. But what? It was deeper, it was in my soul. Cue dramatic music.

Seriously though? What was it that took away my drive? What was it that made the shine disappear.

And then it came to me…quietly. 

I allowed people to affect me. 

I allowed rejection to overcome me. I allowed other’s opinions take over. I allowed other people’s standards to affect mine.

I put less emphasis on the way I wanted to live my life and the dreams I had, the goals I set for myself to be determined by “them”.

oh the dreaded “them”. Who is that? Well,  it can be what we believe others think of us. It can be the parent who doesn’t seem care enough or the boyfriend who breaks up with you. It can be the girls’ at the gym who stare. It can be the boss that tries to bring you down because of his or her insecurities. It can be standards of the culture or world we live in.

Except that years ago I chose not to live by the standards of others. I chose to live for God, with excellence, with grace & forgiveness. 

“Never apologize for having high standards. People who really want to be in your life will rise up to meet them.”

Well, somewhere along the line I started to apologise.

And somewhere along the line the shine in my eyes started to dim.

We all go through ups and downs in life. The darkest times do often bring the brightest lights, but it’s when we allow those moments, those people to define us, then we lose our way.

No one is perfect all the time. I love the fact that I am a really hard person to read, that I have high standards, that I can swear like the best of them one minute, but then have a philosophical discussion on the existence of love in this world the next. I like the fact that I am not like everyone else and that I live with a hope greater than this world. This world is hard and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.

And I miss the girl who didn’t give a … (ahem)

Because that girl got sh*t done and I have pushed her away for too long.

And I have one life. One moment to make my mark. Why am I allowing anything, anyone to stop that?

No longer.

I will find my focus. You find yours. I will not apologise for who I am. I will be more vulnerable. I will dream more. I will take time to do what I need to do. I will say yes and I will say no. I will not allow fear to overcome me but instead remember that I have been given a spirit which overcomes fear. I will sing. I will dance. I will watch obscure movies. I will kiss more. I will worship more. I will be me. Can you be you? Because I love it when you are you.

So, here is to 2016 and letting that light shine.

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? 
Actually, who are you not to be? 
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. 
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. 
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ‘A Return To Love’ (1992) by Marianne Williamson

I don’t do Resolutions, per se (or how I will spend 1 January)

NY blogpost

About eight years ago I started a tradition.

I take a day, early in the new year, or just before the clock turns past 12 and write the vision.

Then the Lord answered me and said,
“Write the vision
And engrave it plainly on [clay] tablets
So that the one who reads it will run.
“For the vision is yet for the appointed [future] time
It hurries toward the goal [of fulfillment]; it will not fail.
Even though it delays, wait [patiently] for it,
Because it will certainly come; it will not delay. Hab 2:2-3

Many years ago I read a story about a class who did an experiment. They were asked to come up with goals. Some wrote goals, some wrote specific goals, other just came up with them. 10 years post-graduation, of those who wrote them down and made them specific, they were wealthier and more successful than 95% of the class. That inspired me. Set your vision and make it plain.

My yearly goals aren’t simply “I will make x amount of money by x date”. I truly take this time as a period of reflection. Phone goes on flight mode, ear-cancelling headphones go on, coffee is in it’s place.

First, give thanks.

‘In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God…for you.’ I Thess 5:18

Before we can reflect we should give thanks that you’re still here. We aren’t promised more than today and we survived another year.

Then, I get into it…

This is a time to reflect on the year. A time to celebrate what I achieved. A time to think back on where I could have improved. It is a time to see how I was challenged and what I learned. It is a time to think about who I want to spend more time with in the coming year and who may need to step out of my life in the forthcoming season. It is a time to think, pray and ponder over the word or words that will govern my life in the next year. It is a time to set specific goals financially, spiritually and for my health. It is a time to ask God to breathe into my plans, to take away that which will not benefit me in the next season. It is a time to ask Him for whose life I need to speak into. It is a time to be silent.

I then write it all down. I don’t give myself a limit. I don’t stress. I simply write.

Then, after it’s all unconsciously and metaphorically, on the table…I begin to define. Some things stay in my notebook, others become real in terms of setting dates and making plans to fulfil goals.

It’s a process, but it is one that I not only look forward to, but also find to be some of the best therapy of the year.

You see, it’s easy to look back on a year and forget. We see that which has impacted us the hardest or most powerfully. We see our flaws, instead of our victories.

This small chunk of my year has become sacred and I hope that it will become a part of your year too.

How to be a Badass

image1 (2)

2015. You really surprised me. You brought some of the most challenging moments of my entire life. You stripped me bare. You revealed parts of me that I had hidden away and some I had never known. You made me cling to my God and to shake people from my life. You gave me the drive to change my life. You are a year I want to say “get behind me” and yet I know that so much was taught to me.

So, 2015. I thank you. Thank you that you are almost done. Thank you that you showed me that I am stronger than I have ever been. Thank you for teaching me to be a badass.

Ultimately we all understand that circumstances happen to us, but they need not hurt us, they can define us.

2016 is going to be one of those culmination years. It will be a year where all that the last four years, all the difficulties, the sowing, the pushing through, will bring the harvest. How do I know this? Because I will make it happen. I am going to be a badass…but how?

“To win battles you need to have the right strategies and resources because victories are not by accident” -The War Room

  1. I am going to fill myself good. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b-32. If it means pasting post it notes up in every inch of my room I know that when I hear the voice of the one who created me, I am inspired and know my value and worth.
  2. I will fall on my knees. Maybe not always literally, but I have learned that in the most difficult times of my life, if I pause and, even in a whisper, surrender my moments to God, I am filled with peace.
  3. I will stop listening to the voices. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” John 4:7 We all have a purpose on our lives and the greatest battle we face is that of the devil trying to stop us. But the battle has already been won and we simply need to stop the voices, whether they’re in our heads or from the critics. I am really great at going to the dark places in my mind, and sometimes I pause there, sometimes I allow it to fuel my creativity, but I never allow it to take me down. Allow the dark to fuel the fight, not to consume.
  4. I will seek inspiration in the every day. Whether it’s a good book, a long walk, a sweat-filled work out, or even dancing around the house to a good song, I choose to seek out what will drive me forward.
  5. I will learn to be vulnerable. I think one of my greatest lessons I have learned is to be more open. One of my favorite parts of this year was meeting someone who brought out aspects of me I didn’t share with a lot of people. It was only in the letting go of everything that I was able to trust this person enough to, in turn, get to know myself better. I stopped thinking of how I should act or what should happen and allowed myself to be. I hope that 2016 will bring more vulnerability.

Being a badass may look very different to you. To me a badass will mean being a woman who doesn’t doubt her confidence. Who continues to find her value in Christ. Who doesn’t care if people don’t think she is their cup of tea. Who finds the beauty in the waiting and in the truth. She finds freedom in understanding that she is an onion waiting to be peeled, layer by layer and it’s okay to only allow some people to see each of those layers. She is a badass because she loves unconditionally.

I hope that I can inspire you, even a little, to be a badass, whatever that means to you.

 

 

 

 

Cause I’m Gonna Make This Place Your Home (Or a love letter to Stockholm)

for the blog depaysement Daniel Dalton, buzzfeed unsplash.com

Var kommer du ifrån?” She asked. He said *just tell her you’re from Liljeholmen

It’s taken three years. After three years of living in London I already was calling myself a Londoner for two years, but Sweden has been different. Slower. Life in Stockholm is slower than life in London. By miles. It’s smaller, more beautiful, it’s different. I am different because of it (and that’s for another day).

And yet still, to say “I’m from Stockholm” has yet to cross my lips.

I guess the accent will always give it away, Swedish has yet to feel like second nature as French or any other language has so easily come. But it will get there.

Maybe it’s my subconscious fighting against settling in a place I never thought I would end up.

And yet, there’s no place I would rather be. 

This summer, as I looked for a new job, I had the world at my finger tips. My language skills, network and varied citizenships make doors open for me. And yet, a nagging feeling, a lack of peace determined my steps, guided my job hunt journey.

Something kept me from leaving. More than leaving, something ensured I stayed, planted, rooted. Even through the frustrations of rejection and boredom…and some pretty crappy summer weather. Filled with days swimming, cool nights at the outdoor cinema, long walks through the city. Stockholm became home.

And I think I have become more Swedish than I ever realised. 

I leave for Russia tomorrow and I am pretty certain that on Saturday evening, a week from now, when I step off the plane, back here in Sweden I will be so happy.

I will have missed the fresh air that is really like no other place I have lived or been. I will be happy to come back to my (much more) minimalistic flat, that thanks to the help of some has become better and better lately. I will come back to the coffee, the candles, the blatant disregard for social mores of constant communication that both frustrates me and builds trust.

But more, I will have missed the people.

When I first arrived I was addressed with the ubiquitous question “so, how long are you staying?” which soon grew tiresome and although I still get it sometimes I ignore it. For the answer is and always will be, This is my home, length of stay to be determined. This frustrating question came with the Swedish tendency to not take people in right away. Probably stemming from years of staying in the country, friendship groups known from childhood and the centricity of familial relationships. Outsiders are not easily welcomed in.

But please take this not as criticism, for I don’t mean it that way. Instead, it’s a part of Swedish mys, or comfort. It takes time to build real relationships (Friends, dating…), but those friendships, those relationships, once solidified, last forever.

This is likely the reason we don’t have to call or text as much here. Or perhaps why, in secular Swedish society, sambo, or a common-law relationship is common, why dating works very differently here. Once you know you know.

At least these are the observations of one would-be Swede.

And that is what I will be so happy to come home to in one week’s time.

Those relationships I have built over the last three years, some from the beginning, and some from just the last few months. It’s the people who text me at random times, no matter what country I am in. Those who have taken the time to get to know me for me. It’s all those wonderful people who make home home.

For those people I am so thankful.

I am thankful for the fikas, the evenings sipping wine, the nights filled with tears, the lunches, the gym dates, the movies…or just the simple act of cooking together.

Sure I love Sweden. Yes I love all the little aspects of Swedish culture that sets it apart from no where else….but it’s the people.

To those people, who know who they are, whatever the future hold, thank you for making this place home.

A Beautiful Mess (or the post I cried writing)

IMG_6544

I used to write more frequently for a company called So Worth Loving. Because it was a place that perpetuated, believed in, was based on your self worth and loving others, the raw, unabridged words that flowed there were real and I always felt safe writing there. In that space I was supposed to be a mess, I was supposed to be broken, or at least formerly broken, on my way some place better.

I kept this, my own little corner of the internet, though quite raw in moments, more of a place where there was hope and faith. For those who have followed along for years will remember most of 2012 where my heart bled onto the digital paper as I worked to become less broken, more whole.

However, overall I have ensured that for the most part, the rawest, and sometimes most shameful parts of who I am were kept on So Worth Loving or not spoken about at all. When I did open up on Beyond Rubies, yes sometimes people commented and liked, but it was less so and maybe I just wanted validation. Maybe I didn’t want people to see that I struggle. I had gotten over my people-pleasing, affirmation craving ways and wasn’t going back.

Or so I thought.

But something I realised over the last few months ,as I have begrudgingly allowed God to work on my heart, is that a bit of that girl who just wanted to be liked had crept back in and God was doing everything to fight her off.

Recently my friend Melissa said to me “Michelle, reckon you got a bit too much of your identity wrapped up in what you do?”

Oh that stung. Like I actually felt like I had been slapped in the face. Probably because deep down I knew that, after already 4 months of looking for a job I had started feeling less and less like me. Here is where I would normally start to sugar-coat my blog a bit. Brushing past all the pain, need of affirmation and desire to simply be accepted for me would be hidden under a lot of bible verses and challenges to be better.

But as I write this, tears flowing down my face, I have to only be thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who knows that life can’t be spent that way. It’s a paradox actually. I genuinely want to see the pain and tears of the people I love. I want to laugh with them, cry with them, understand their insecurities and pray with them. However to actually allow someone that close scares me.

To admit that I don’t always feel enough is terrifying. I wasn’t who I wanted to be in all areas of my life (see last blog for more about that). I wasn’t a person I thought was enough.

When God wants to teach you a lesson, He really will keep you in a place until you have learned it and while my journey is not over, I definitely learned that I need to learn the lesson and they do say the first thing is to admit you have a problem.

In the last few months God has brought me to a place where I have had to ask for help, I have had to reframe how I introduce myself to people. I have not been in the place where I can show someone how much I care simply by doing or buying them something.

I only have me. And learning to accept the fact that if all there is, is me, and someone doesn’t stay close, imperfections, insecurities and all. Then that’s ok. It only means that those who stay close, who leaned in, who still wanted me, those people are worth gold.

I am planning a little party to celebrate my new job. I wish I could say that it’s going to be a big bash. It’s not, a few people who stood by me over this last season (at least the ones in town…out of towners don’t count). The people who didn’t care if I couldn’t buy something, the people who believed in me even in the moments I didn’t believe in myself. The people who really see me.

Even if me can be a mess.

Learning to keep your eyes focused solely on your creator, to fall in love with His plans and purposes for your life, to be okay with your scars, all of this sucks, I am not going to sugar coat it. The process really sucks, but the end is result is beautiful.

A beautiful mess. A beautiful exchange. Christ could have saved the world any way he chose, but He chose the messiest way to demonstrate his love for us. And I am so thankful that this happened because I really don’t want to see what my life would turn out like if I didn’t have Him.

Maybe someone people will hate this post, maybe it will help one person. I am a mess. You’re a mess. I still get insecure and then go home and go “why didn’t I just…” or “will I ever be able to get over”…

And I will. And so will you.

We are beautiful messes. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Placed here for a time such as this. Loved before we even existed in this form.

The Problem with Perfection

image1 (2)

“Your sorrows today will help in somebody’s tomorrow.”

Charlotte Gambill spoke about this a couple weeks ago in church. Well, actually she mentioned it in passing and it was such a strong reminder of the fact that in the seasons of struggle, of growth, of challenge, that God will never allow anything to go to waste. In everything we experience it will either benefit us later on or help someone else.

I hope that my vulnerability will help someone else. So here goes…

I can be painfully shy. 

Okay, everyone who knows me should stop laughing now. I can be shy not because I am not a social person. I can be shy for another reason…

  • When I am in a public situation, speaking or singing I get terrible stage fright. Terrible. Until I walk onto stage. Then I am fine, but in the moments leading up to the actual event I am cold, nauseous, on the verge of tears.
  • When it comes to large groups of people, unless I have a function, I will stick to the people I know best. Unless I give myself a goal to talk to x number of people I will stay dangerously close to whomever I find won’t try and shake me off.
  • When I like a guy, even if I know that he probably likes me, I will act almost like I am disinterested when it comes to that moment where someone should make a move. I am not a move girl. I am an “oh-my-goodness-my-hands-are-shaking-and-freezing-cold-and-would-he-please-just-hold my hand/kiss me/put-his-arms-around-me-and-pull-me-close-because-if-this-is-up-to-me-I-will-be-single-until-I-am-90” kind of girl.

Because sometimes I struggle with knowing I am enough.

  • Maybe I don’t feel like I have the best voice.
  • Or that I am not enough of an expert that people want to listen to me.
  • Or I don’t think people want to talk to me.
  • Or he will find someone he likes better.

It’s a struggle and I am pretty sure I am not alone.

The problem is that my measurement of enough is perfection.

And guess what?

I’m not perfect.

Woah, take a minute. Breathe in, breathe out. I know. It’s a shock. Someone call CNN.

Now that you’ve gotten back up off the floor, shall we continue? Perfectionism is a disease. Or at least I think it is. The symptoms include shaking, dry mouth, cold hands, attachment to your phone in public, nights of regrets, shall I go on? There’s a lot to be compared to now. With the internet we get to see all the photos/stories/articles/movies that give us what we believe is perfection. It’s keeping up with the Joneses on a whole new level!

When we measure ourselves, compare ourselves, in any situation to a standard of perfection we will always fall short. It’s actually stupid. Comparing to or measuring ourselves against something we believe to be perfect (in the case of media or someone else) or to a standard that doesn’t even exist ensures that we are not wise.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12

So then what? I know I am not supposed to compare myself or to strive for perfection…but how?

When I am feeling shy because I am feeling not quite enough, I try and remind myself that I have someone who has already gone before me. Someone who has a plan for me. Someone who made me, fearfully and wonderfully. Who created me with purpose.

Okay, so I may still get nervous, but I am working on the not-having-to-be-perfect thing because dang that is a lot of pressure. Then I go back to the truth. Because who wants to marry someone who’s perfect anyway? ;)

One day a girl got off a plane…

Processed with VSCOcam with p2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with p2 preset

When I was eight years old I walked up to my mother and asked, innocently, “Mama, can I please go to boarding school in Switzerland?”

The answer was, of course, no. To a little girl who was in the midst of devouring the novels “What Katy did” about a girl who went to boarding school, this was of course one of the most devastating moments of my little life. Why couldn’t I go away and have adventures? I don’t even really understand why I chose Switzerland. I mean, Katy was British. Maybe the idea of a language I was familiar with, mountains and being semi-close to family in Germany appealed to my strange eight year old brain?

Needless to say it would be 6 years later when I took my first “solo” journey away, travelling to Hawaii to sing. Then just two years later flying to South Africa and finally moving away at 18 to go to school approximately 4300kms away from my hometown. I then “shocked” my family by moving yet another 3500kms after I graduated.

I was always on the move. And by the way, no one was shocked about my decision to move. Maybe just a little confused at the location. Needless to say, on September 5, 2005 I landed at Heathrow with way too many suitcases and an apartment which I had never seen. The adventure began again.

Ten years later it doesn’t feel like time has past. I remember sitting in the Sloney Pony pub with Emily, celebrating our five year anniversary of London living and now, five years later I’ve since moved on and still cannot believe I have been entrusted with the life I have.

So, to mark this occasion I wanted to share ten lessons I learned. If you go here you can read about 30 lessons I wrote about on the eve of my birthday. These will be different…

You can do the impossible. There is nothing stopping you from changing your life. If you are reading this right now, you have the ability to change your life. You are reading this on your phone, tablet or PC. If you’re blessed enough to have any of these things, then you’re blessed. Find a way to make something happen for yourself that you have once deemed impossible. God has promised that all things are possible through Him. Some of these things you want to do will take hard work, some the right connections, some training, some money. What is your impossible? At one time mine was running 13.1 miles and not passing out. I did it. At one time my impossible was dropping 12 dress sizes. Done. At one time my impossible was moving across the world. Check. God sorted that one out nicely. Literally the only thing stopping you is you. And if there’s someone cheering you on, believing in you, don’t let that person go. You’re going to need them.

You will never be ready. A friend once told me that men will never get into a relationship until they’re ready. Apparently this is some magic moment that is individual to every man and no woman, no one in fact, can predict it. I’m guessing it’s like a switch? Who knows, but apparently no woman can make a man ready. Well, sadly, like in every area of our lives we’re probably not ever really ready. The job you want? Maybe you don’t have quite the skills, but you have the passion, drive and some knowledge. Apply anyway. You and your spouse may want a child and are financially able, but you may not be ready emotionally. We can try and try to prepare as much for any season or moment in our lives, but there will always be some aspect of our lives that can put a huge “NOT READY” stamp on our plans. That’s why we have God and the Holy Spirit. Pray, seek wisdom and jump. Ready isn’t a something you can force.

Do it scared, but never without peace. Kind of the same as the above…just going a bit deeper. When I realised that my time in London was coming to a close it was scary. I remember sitting in my teeny studio flat crying my eyes out trying to figure out why God was definitely telling me that my London season was over. I couldn’t understand or contemplate. I mean MY LIFE WAS THERE GOD…hello!?! However, as I prayed and sought His peace and wisdom, when it came time to first decide to apply for uni here in Sweden and then actually move, the fear never left. However, it was being suffocated by peace. His everlasting and extraordinary peace that passes understanding. The opposite of fear is not courage, it’s faith. Keep your faith in your saviour and the peace will come.

Haters going to hate. People do not like me. Crazy eh? A lot of people do not like you either. Actually both those statements are sort of untrue. It’s not that people do not like you, but likely they’re dealing with some thing in their lives, which is causing insecurity, jealousy, envy, whatever the ugliness and it’s manifesting itself in the form of some hatred.

Did I ever tell you that once a girl said I was too nice? Another person once tried to make others hate me because I was over performing at work. When we live in the favour of God and strive for a life of excellence you’re going to get some hate. God said in this life there would be troubles, but He has overcome it all. Wipe it off and keep on walking.

You will probably lose yourself along the way, have people around you who will help you back. Ever look in the mirror and not recognize yourself. Or perhaps some thoughts come into your head or even words out of your mouth and even you are surprised by the contents. This last season has been a psychological struggle for me. Being without work isn’t great in my books and not being busy leaves me with a lot of self reflection time. DO NOT LET ME REFLECT TOO MUCH. I drive myself insane. I am, along with many others, one of those people you don’t really have to scold or tell off or even help figure stuff out with. I self-analyse myself constantly, trying to understand my reason for doing something or whether my actions were in line. This means that without a job my little analytical brain was ON FULL SPEED AHEAD. Have you seen “Inside Out”? I would have loved to do that movie with my brain as the centre. Needless to say, in all this self reflection time I ended up over reflecting and losing myself in the process. Blame, insecurity, sadness, rejection…all crowded my thoughts. It wasn’t until I gave myself enough breathing room to let people in, who knew me and could hit me over the head with a book, that I found myself again.That and going back into HIS WORD, and losing myself in His love. When you feel yourself going connect with the one who created you and those who love you the most.

Reinvention is a key to life, but never lose your passion. When I landed in London I had baby bangs and short, blonde hair. Shortly after I dyed it copper, then blonde and purple, brown, blonde, red…the list goes on. I was a bit obsessed with constantly reinventing myself, at least physically, but along the way that reinvention saw itself manifest in my jobs. I have done a lot of things in the last ten years, but ultimately my passion has remained the same. For me, building relationships and helping others achieve their passions and goals is my passion in life, my purpose is to show people the love of God. This is my red thread when it comes to life. My jobs, where I volunteer, how I spend my downtime, the books I read, the conversations I have, they all revolve in some way around this. Everything I do somehow touches on this even if one day it looked like working in the media industry and the next it meant volunteering with a company to help grow their business. Don’t get bored, keep your passion passionate and see the difference you make in the world.

Taste the rainbow. There’s a great saying “Go one place every year that you’ve never been”. One of my favorite aspects of the last ten years is exploration. I’ve explored cities, countries and my own backyard. I’ve slept on airport floors, tasted champagne in Paris, swam in lagoons in Italy, found all my favourite coffee shops in Sweden, spoken a plethora of languages, met people from countries I didn’t know existed, all in the name of learning something new. I pray that this never stops, no matter what happens in the next season of life. Will I always be nomadic? Will I “settle down”? Will I marry a Swede, or an Australian? who knows. I just know that each day I want to “taste the rainbow” and know more of the world that God created.

Buy the shoes. Honestly, if you love something do it. Buy it. Explore it. Fine, be smart, don’t go into debt, but that aside, we have one life and if you really want to buy those red ruby slippers and dance on the Trocadero in Paris, at midnight, while the Eiffel Tower sparkles, do it.

But also, buy the shoes for someone else. Be generous. To whom much is given, much is expected. I’m getting a bit more serious now. A lot of what I have written is about you. Or about me. It’s about the person you’re trying to be to make a difference in this world. The thing is. We don’t live our lives in a bubble. We live our lives in relationship with others. Be generous with those around you. Look for the need. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you opportunities to see the need. I have a rule. Since I am currently not married with children I baby sit for free. If my friends need help. I am there. Not only do I figure that one day I will need someone else to watch my babies, but I have the time and resource now to bless someone else. What can you do? What is in your hands?

Invest in your future and in others futures. This is not about money. I decided, at 18, that by the time I was 30 I would speak 5 languages. I did it. Am I perfect at them? No…but I’m learning my 6th and can get by in a few more. This skill has and continues to help me and others in many ways. Last week in Paris a frantic Spanish woman came up to me for help and it was so fun to watch her face light up when I could direct her in her native tongue. By learning new skills we make our futures better equipped for the tasks and responsibilities that God has for us.

And invest in others…I love people so investing in them comes naturally. I have to stop there. Investing in people I like comes naturally. Investing in those who I love, but find more difficult to get on with naturally, well, that’s the goal of the next ten years. But back to it. We have all been given a step up by someone else. Whether it was a lesson, someone introduced you to someone who got you a job, or even someone helped you see what you didn’t know. We get places because of the people around us. I’ve learned that the best way to get more help is by helping those who are coming up behind you. I only stand where I am today because of the people who have gone before me (in all aspects of my life), so I can only humbly help others to pay back for all that I have been given.

God isn’t on top, He’s at the centre, He’s your everything. In the end it’s all about Him. I would never be where I am today if God wasn’t at the centre of my life. Now, He knows that he hasn’t always been there and I am sure I will continue to go through seasons where I have to adjust, but ultimately knowing that when God is at the centre of your life, of your everything than life is just that much better. It may not always be easy, but you will never, ever be alone.

Here’s to the next ten years…

We Danced

IMG_4461

In our high school athletics were very important. We all took phys. ed. Everything from volleyball to badminton, cross country and weight training. 2-3 to days a week you were sweating alongside your classmates, enjoying all the benefits of what sport brings. Every December, to take a break from the norm, our high school offered a different kind of phys. ed. It was such a tradition that we tried to get out of our other classes, just to partake in more than our weekly routine of physical activity.

Every December we danced.

We did everything from traditional Russian dancing (I seem to remember something about being horses?), to the Scottish ceilidh and country line dancing from the bottom parts of the south of the USA. We learned to waltz, polka, whatever we could learn, we did. Then, just before winter break we had a school wide dance.

That day was my favourite.

As much as I loved all the learning, the actual classes, especially when we had to partner up, were hard. You see, I was the tallest girl in my class, for a LONG time. Standing at more than the average 5’5″ (165.1cm) at 12 and combined with a severe lack of guys during my gym block, we often had to pair up with girls, so I had to take the lead. Or, I got paired up with a guy who was so afraid to lead (because we were what 13, 14,15 years old) that we either ended up doing nothing or looking foolish. So when we had the school wide dance, I actually got to dance with a guy, lead by a guy who knew what to do. I loved the moments of being lead.

It’s funny what we believe affects us later in life. From such an early age I already had to learn to lead my own life. Okay, so this is just one example of circumstances in my life which made me take control of my life. There are probably another five pieces I could write on other circumstances which shaped the woman I have become (for better or for worse), but this…this one sticks out.

Dancing.

I guess it’s because I am not a fan of feeling foolish. I mean, who is. Who wants to look a bit dumb or make a mistake in front of people. Not exactly a trait many of us carry. Dancing is far more than a physical act. It is a metaphor for life. We take steps to the left, to the right, we go backwards and forwards. We are spun inwards and outwards, lead by our partner in what, over a song becomes a story, it is a journey which makes up a beautiful narrative. When we try to lead (when we aren’t supposed to), then the dance gets mixed up. Two people cannot lead. There must always be someone who follows. Or, if the one who leads, isn’t stepping up and taking the lead the path is full of stumbles, not as elegant and getting out of the missteps takes more time. The story isn’t as a beautiful, as graceful. A lot like our relationship with God.

BUT, allow me to take detour for a moment. Just for the sake of a good metaphor.

Dancing is a lot like dating. The dance of romance. Say what you want of equality, the man should take the lead. It isn’t the equal division of tasks that makes dating and eventually marriage equal, it is the equitable and efficient division of resources. Like a dance, when we have true equality, when the man leads, when he writes the story and the woman, putting her trust in him, follows, a beautiful story is written. When both focus on the same goal (glorifying God) then the dance has a purpose and a focus.

Oh wait, much like dating, God is trying to romance us…funny how this is all working together…

Today when I go to take dance lessons I can find it difficult to let the guy lead. I have been trained to take the lead, mostly out of necessity and practicality. Recently I was taking salsa lessons with a few of my friends. There were a few men there and I found myself really loving dancing and getting into the groove of things. With two of the say five guys that were potential partners, I rested safely in their arms, dancing away until I was drenched in sweat. When it came time to change and I was put with a man who wasn’t secure, one who didn’t have my best interest at heart, who didn’t focus on leading, the dance was awkward and generally never properly complete. The guys that I could trust were who we can liken to God. Strong, understanding of the journey we are to take, foreknowledge of the ending and aware of the steps we need to take to get there.

The men who were insecure, who hadn’t read the steps, who weren’t comforted by experience are much like when we take the lead in our own lives…stumbling, blind and without hope.

There’s a song by Bethel Music. It’s called We Danced. It’s a ballad, a worshipful song of the dance between ourselves and God.

You steady me
Slow and sweet, we sway
Take the lead and I will follow
Finally ready now
To close my eyes and just believe
That You won’t lead me
Where You don’t go

When my faith gets tired
And my hope seems lost
You spin me round and round
And remind me of that song
The one You wrote for me
And we dance

The last few months, heck, few years, have been a struggle to say the least. A struggle by human eyes, but to God, a beautiful dance.

Like Joseph in Genesis, God has turned what was meant for evil in my life and made it for good. Instead of fighting the lead that God was taking in my life, I have learned, some days, some hours begrudgingly even, to allow Him to lead.

Praying to hear his voice. Asking for wisdom. Training myself to hear, to feel when the Holy Spirit is gently pulling on my heart to go one way or another, either physically or in a decision.

When my faith got tired, and when my hope seems lost (even today), I am in training to become one of the best dancers the world has seen. I am never going to be a ballerina on a world’s stage, or a hip hop dancer in a music video , but instead, I am going to dance my way, even through the missteps and the turns and twirls with the one who has always captivated my heart. With my Lord.

Jesus Christ (the Messiah) is [always] the same, yesterday, today, [yes] and forever (to the ages). Hebrews 13:8

Are not two [j]little sparrows sold for a penny? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s leave (consent) and notice. But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, then; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

He invited you to dance, invited you to be part of a beautiful story, one that will be filled with less than desirable moments, but you will always know you’re safe, safe in the arms of your beloved.

In the Midst of the Waves

I thought about writing this when I had gotten the job, but then it made me think…

How many blogs, articles and books have been written once we have gotten whatever it is that we wanted?

How many times have you heard from your now loved-up, engaged or married friend that “oh, it was worth the wait” or “God totally had it under control”?

I am not saying that all of their good advice, consoling remarks or loving comments aren’t valid or true, but this time I am going to give thanks in the in between.

So here goes…but first, a side note (I do love side notes)

The funny thing about social media is that it isn’t reality. Or at the very least it isn’t the entire truth.

I choose to put online what I feel is most appropriate for the message I want to get across. My message affects my brand. As someone who does this for a living, I carefully cultivate what goes up or even sometimes comes down. I don’t believe in a personal and professional brand. I am me and I have guidelines about what I post. Nothing I have is private (except FB) and my audience includes everyone from friends, family, professional relationships and people who follow me because of my writing. I am constantly trying to keep a level of integrity in what I post, remembering that it might be my 13-year-old cousin or her friends seeing what I post or a future boss or client. Ultimately, I say this all, in this post because the last few weeks or months have looked a bit like a dream. And, I hope they did…because even in the darkest times I want my life, even on social media, to reflect the faith that I have and the thankful attitude I try my best to live with.

So…

Back in April I was laid off. This is the kind of thing that happens when working at a start up, the risk you take.

Although I immediately felt saved (due to the difficult circumstances of my working environment) I was still laid off. Let me tell you. People can say you’re the best and that you’ve done an incredible job and you can even KNOW that this is true, and yet being laid off feels awful.

It feels like you’re being broken up with. You immediately want to go back through the past months figuring out what went wrong, where you could have saved yourself, knowing full well that it wouldn’t have mattered. I love what I do and also really function on the “having a lot to do makes me more productive” kind of level, therefore this wasn’t exactly a great thing for me. I have rarely ever been unemployed more than a few weeks, at most. Now, like the end of a relationship, I was faced with beginning again.

You know that moment when someone has told you that they no longer love you? That sinking feeling where all of the plans you have made in your head and heart, where all the expectations vanish faster than you ever dreamt them up?

All of this. All the time.

Except that this time it was different.

I felt all of this. All of the rejection. All the hurt and confusion.

But this time…this time instead of trying to fix it all, I just stopped. I stopped and handed it over to God.

Back in October, at Hillsong Conference, as I wept during this song…

And I will call upon Your name…And keep my eyes above the waves…When oceans rise…My soul will rest in Your embrace…For I am Yours and You are mine (Oceans, Hillsong)

…A gentle hand told me that God will always be my stronghold.

This time, when waves came crashing over me, I just stopped and let Him actually be my stronghold, my anchor.

Now, I am still in my ocean. Not only with work, in relationships, still single, still looking for my place in this world, but when it comes to work (my current highest need), even in my ocean, I see the light, I feel Jesus standing on the water, urging me to step out.

I have felt peace and I am rested.

I brought up social media because my Instagram account reads like a princess in a fairytale. Paris, London, Toronto, sun, friends…

It doesn’t show the days of sitting on my couch hunting and applying for the next role, or prepping for interviews on my holiday. It doesn’t show how even though I am at peace, God is using this time to heal me, to make me whole. It doesn’t show the tears and the frustrations.

What my Instagram account actually shows; what it demonstrates is His unfailing love, peace, provision and hope.
It shows that He gives me rest when I need it. He brings people to refresh me. He uses me to help others, even if I feel like I can’t help anyone.

When I sang… Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters. Wherever You would call me, Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. And my faith will be made stronger. In the presence of my Savior…deep down I admit it was still “lead me where I think you’re going to probably lead me, in my time”…

Well, my timing wasn’t right and I am still looking for a job and I know the timing and role will be perfect. But I can say this…

Even in the meantime…in the “and you will” *** stage of this season I have only ever felt His beautiful, unwavering peace.

***Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you. Matt 7:7

When we know that our hope is in the one who is above all else, when our eyes truly stay fixed on an unmoving mark, the one who is never changing (Hebrews 13:8), and it takes a lot of practice (!!!!!), then that peace never leaves.

Why waste any energy on worrying? Stressing? Anxiety?

Sure, I want this season to end, but I love being in the right now. And I wasn’t always like this….

Thank God He has always had patience with me to get me here.