When NO Is Just A Detour

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Have you ever had someone turn you down for a job?

Perhaps you asked someone out and they said no. Or perhaps someone asked you out and then decided it wasn’t the right thing.

Maybe you didn’t get into the college you wanted or get to go on that trip you really wanted.

It could simply be that you were not allowed to go to a friend’s house when you were a child or something as complex as a move to another country that never happened.
Big, FAT NOs.

When NOs come around I’m reminded of the Paul and Silas in Acts 16:

And Paul and Silas passed through the territory of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Word in [the province of] Asia.

And when they had come opposite Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

[There] a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man from Macedonia stood pleading with him and saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us! And when he had seen the vision, we [including Luke] at once endeavored to go on into Macedonia, confidently inferring that God had called us to proclaim the glad tidings (Gospel) to them.

Paul got a LOT of NOs…my gosh, the Holy Spirit even forbid him to go one place!  Even so, ALL those NOs lead him and Silas exactly where they were supposed to go…

I’m writing this in the midst of a no. I am not sure where this latest no has me headed but I know that it’s something great.

 I know that whatever God does, it endures forever; nothing can be added to it nor anything taken from it. And God does it so that men will [reverently] fear Him [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is]. That which is now already has been, and that which is to be already has been; and God seeks that which has passed by [so that history repeats itself]. Eccelsiates 3:14-15

A few years ago I was in a situation that was keeping me in London. Few know that around September/October 2011 I felt the desire to leave London. The funny part was that I had no idea where that was going to lead, I only knew that I no longer felt that London was where I was supposed to be. However, circumstances in my life changed that had me stay in a London longer than I expected. So, where’s the no? Well, it came in a huge crash of reality when the circumstances that kept me in London suddenly came crashing away and I was free.

You see, I thought that those circumstances were my future. I believed that the relationship I was in was it, at least then. When God placed a big fat NO across it and it all ended He very suddenly and very rapidly changed my circumstances and less than 5 months later I lived in a new country.

What God has for you, no man can take away…(John 10:29)

Now two years later what I thought was a huge NO to a life I really believed I wanted was simply God’s way of rerouting me to the life that I was supposed to have, in the direction I was supposed to go.

In hindsight I can now see clearly where the NO was simply a redirection.

How often do we feel that a NO in our lives is unfair, hurtful, painful and just darn mean? Instead, can we dare to reframe our view and see a NO as a means to our destiny?

In the past weeks I have gone to more than my share of incredible job interviews. I have had rave reviews and fabulous encounters with some seemingly amazing opportunities. I have even been offered a role, a dream role, all of which have suddenly become NO.

I’m writing because I had a revelation, or maybe a reminder of how we should treat the NOs in our lives.

 

This is my prayer in the desert

When all that’s within me feels dry

This is my prayer in my hunger and need

My God is the God who provides

And this is my prayer in the fire

In weakness or trial or pain

There is a faith proved

Of more worth than gold

So refine me, Lord, through the flame

And I will bring praise

I will bring praise

No weapon formed against me shall remain

I will rejoice

I will declare

God is my victory and He is here 

 

Instead of whining, crying, screaming…pray, give thanks.

I am so thankful that one of the biggest NOs in my life happened. Sure, in the moment I was a mess, more a mess than I care to admit, but it lead me to this life I am leading now.

Where have your NOs taken you? I challenge you to take a minute and think, reflect on the NOs in your life. What has come out of them? What victories? What celebrations? What amazing new experiences have you encountered or who have you met because of a NO?

Then…thank God for the NO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Trust Without Borders

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You call me out upon the waters. The great unknown where feet may fail and there I find You in the mystery. In oceans deep, my faith will stand. Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters…Wherever You would call me.

When Jesus called Peter out of the boat and onto, not into the water Peter’s first mistake was taking his eyes off his Saviour. When he focused his attention back on Jesus he miraculously walked across water.

January 2014 I made a very strong decision to live as much in the moment as I could. Although I have goals and dreams I made the conscious decision to take each day as it came, putting all that I could into each day and allowing each step to determine the next. I was going to keep my eyes on Jesus.

Almost 10 months later I wish I could tell you that it was the most joyous ten months I have ever experienced. I wish I could say that each day was filled with joy and new understandings of God and beautiful flowers blooming next to the paths that I walked along to get wherever I needed to be. I wish I could tell you that in those moments, which stacked into days and months I had Snow White-esque interlopers of birds hanging my clothes and wee squirrels sweeping the floor. I wish I could tell you that seemingly out of nowhere the man of my dreams walked up and declared his hidden love to me in a move so romantic, so over the top that I was maybe being punked and Ashton Kutcher might have made an appearance in Stockholm. I even wish I could tell you that my perfect job fell into my lap as one day I opened the door to the library, pausing for a moment and seeing that someone had chased me down the street because I “looked like the exact person they needed working for them”.

Yeah, absolutely none of that happened. (I may have to write a movie though…)

What happened was different. What happened, what is still happening now was something that is almost too personal to share, but too significant to hide.

Rather than writing a long essay which postulates on the grander theological reasoning behind why this happened and how I’ll simply share, in a few bullet points what it meant to be, what it means to me to really step out onto the water and be lead by the Spirit.

Peace. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

I once believed that peace meant that you had to feel great and that it was something that made you smile leaving you with happy thoughts and rainbows coming out as you spoke of how much at peace you are with a decision.

The peace I have become accustom to over the past few months is something I have never experienced. It’s a peace that truly passes understanding (Phil 4:7). Let me explain what that feels like. This peace is one that not only allows you to say “I’m looking for work”, but one that needs no explanation as to why you have yet to find a job. This peace is a confidence in the promises of God to prosper you and to not harm you. This is a peace that knows that when you are doing what you can, God will do the rest.

This is a peace that allows you to say “I’m okay being single” and not following it up with some sort of excuse such as “I’m not ready, or maybe he’s not ready, or maybe I need to lose weight, or where different clothes or try Tinder”.** This is a peace that says I’m okay with being single because being single is not a disease or a simply a season waiting to end (although it probably is simply a season). This peace knows that every period of my life prepares me for the next and MOST of the time I did not know what the next season looked like or how the current season’s lessons would bring me forward, and yet still it did.

Peace won’t always feel great, but this peace is one that is steadfast because my Saviour doesn’t change and wants the best for his children.

Humility

A large part of the last ten months was spent writing my Masters thesis. This meant a gigantic portion of my time writing…alone…in a library or some odd cafe which contributed greatly to my caffeine addiction. Writing a thesis is a process I really wish everyone had to go through. There is something about doing your own research that teaches you a multitude of lessons, the least of which is self-discipline. This process though taught me a lot about humility. In those last few weeks when I thought I had pretty much screwed up my entire thesis or in the beginning when I questioned my topic, I was surrounded by friends, professors and colleagues who helped me understand myself and straighten out some of the wires that were causing my brain to explode. Far more than grateful this process, alongside this daily surrender of a plan to God helped me become more humble. You can ask my parents, I have been self-sufficient from a young age and these moments when I doubted myself and had to ask for help gave me a sense of my part in this huge world and a desperate need to humble myself when I needed to call for help.

It may seem like a strange comparison but when we cannot even ask for help from those who surround us, then how can we ever seem to ask for help from God. God is seemingly untangible in the human realm. We cannot physically see or touch him, although I have in moments felt his tangible presence. Believing in God takes faith, is faith. When we first learn to allow others around us to help us, to let them in, we can further allow God to help us, take care of us and protect us.

Joy

I have a great sense of joy. I have known the ups and downs of life, but I must admit that some of my previous tendency to plan every inch of my life has robbed me of the joy of some experiencing the here and now. One night this summer my friend R and I decided we were in dire need of really good pizza. Sadly my body and I do not agree on what I like and what it allows me to eat so once in a while I go hunting for really good pizza, even though I will suffer after. R and I combed the streets of Stockholm and searched the internet for the best pizza in the city. We “stumbled” across a place, a bit off the track that has room for about 10 people on a good day and only opens at 4pm. Forgetting everything else that needed to be done we went along and had what I believe was one of the best pizzas I had ever eaten, washed down by craft beer and experienced in what felt like a genuine Italian eatery. Following this we decided we had to buy our amusement park passes that moment and after walking all over town we ended up at the amusement park where a concert was taking place. What began as a plan to grab coffee turned into one of the most lovely nights I had. R and I allowed ourselves to enjoy every moment of the evening and not worrying about what we had to do. I don’t recommend throwing caution to the wind, but that day without a plan will forever be a great memory and a time where R and my friendship was sealed.

These past few months, allowing each day to come and also allowing myself to enjoy the moment, not worrying about what might come or what might be happening in that moment, has opened me up to a greater joy than I had experienced before. It’s like joy on steroids. I’m not sure that is an appropriate analogy…but I’ve learned that allowing yourself to live in the moment discards the worry, the striving, the anxiety.
I write this all not only to you, but to me as a reminder. I’m still in job search mode, still apartment hunting and still single (haha jokes…), but seriously, I could say that I am living in the in-between and before today I would have said the same.

Except I am not living in the between, I am living. When we live life waiting for the next thing to happen, rushing through to the next step prematurely, then we actually stop living. Living is more than waiting for the next iPhone to come out or the next holiday. Living is breathing in each day, enjoying whatever time you have in each situation and with whomever. Living is joy, peace, contentment…

I challenge you to stop waiting and just live.

 

**The Tinder discussion is an entire other post!

30 Things…extended

30 thingsIt’s only a few days until my birthday and in the midst of all the thesis writing, getting ready for parties and Easter I wanted to take a moment and write what I’ve learned over the last few years.

I’m not about posts that tell everyone else how to live their lives or give you a three-point system to being successful, happy, loved, content etc. I am, however, a big fan of sharing…I believe that the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is not only true, but also something that never changes. It’s not without the wisdom, trials, advice and celebrations of others that I would have already made it this far.

With this in mind, before the date changes over and I’m well and truly into my 30s here are 30 things that I have learned…I would love for you to add to this list and share what you think too!

Note: there’s no order in this list…no importance, no rating…just lessons.

1. Life is about balance…whether it’s in health, in relationships, or in how much time you spend staring at your smart phone, we all need balance in our lives. Without balance there’s a good chance you will go mad (crazy). If something feels off, check if something is taking too much of your energy or devotion and change your priorities.

2. There only two constants in your life: you & God. If it’s one lesson I have learned is that no one, not even your parents are going to be a constant in your life. Although we’re designed to be in community, in relationship, we need to ensure that we take care of our relationship with ourselves and God first. If these are in place you can serve the world from a much better, and healthier, position.

3. People are mean. Face it, you’re mean, i’m mean. Thankfully, most of the time it’s only a moment and driven by emotion or maybe just not eating a snack (can we talk about “hanger”?). Get over it. If you were mean to someone, apologise and move on. If you’ve been hurt…deal with it. Holding onto that which is negative really can kill you.

4. People are often just curious. SO STOP TELLING EVERYONE EVERYTHING. Honestly, I spent too much of my 20s justifying why I didn’t want to go to this party or that event. I told too many people what I was feeling or who I may have been interested in. It’s none of anyone’s business and often “care” is curiosity!

5. You cannot control anything but your decisions and subsequent actions. This is the big lesson I learned in my 20s. I tried to make my life like a chess game. Life isn’t chess…Life is Twister, Snakes and Ladders and often even Solitaire. You can’t figure out what’s going to happen or try to manipulate the situation. Your best bet is to learn to simply respond with grace and maturity to anything that comes your way…it will all fall into place.

6. Thankful is the only attitude you need. This may come across as odd, I really believe that if you do anything with love you will have the best life, but with that, out of that comes and attitude of gratitude; a thankful heart. I have learned that if we constantly look for something to be grateful for then life becomes a lot lighter and people actually want to be around you.

7. I am unique…and so are you. Life is not one size fits all. Aside from the simple (and yet often hard to grasp) lesson that we are all on our own journeys, this is more a practical statement. You are going to wear a different clothes size then the girl standing next to you. You may be better at football than your flatmate but he can rip you to shreds on a surf board. You may need to stay away from meat but you love pasta. Find what makes you healthy and strong and go with that…

8. If you knew what was ahead, you would cry, scream, throw a fit, want it so bad that you would mess it up. I remember a message that Christine Caine once spoke, she said that if we knew that we were going to be in 5, 10 or even 20 years you would either become too proud to get there or too scared and fall in a crumbled mess. I love that looking back I can see the thread that got me where I am today. We really need each day to get to the next…give yourself grace to get there in the right time.

9. Water is the best drink. Fact.

10. God really does love you. This is an entire blog post in itself or maybe even a long conversation over a cup of coffee, but it’s true. He loves you and wants you to know that.

11. Cultivating a “Jesus heart” is the only way to live life. This has been my 2014 challenge, a real, “What would Jesus do” kind of challenge. So far, it’s well…hard but the results have been amazing…I’ll keep you updated.

12. Expectations of others only ever bring pain. It’s that simple, when we put expectations into a situation, we’re trying to control the outcome. Just let it go (cue the soundtrack from Disney’s Frozen).

13. God truly opens doors no one can shut and shuts those no one can open. A few months ago I prayed that God would show me the direction a relationship was going. I think God knows that I don’t easily give in to situations because within days he slammed a door shut so hard I didn’t even want to open it…Ask. He’ll show you.

14. People rely on me. And people rely on you…let your yes be yes and your no be no. Be of good character and do it out of love.

15. Influence is not about position. When you have had a title and then not had a title this lesson is a lot clearer, but I learned that my actions, really my life, are always being watched. I will guarantee you that you have someone who is looking up to you to see what you are doing or how you will react. Treat that responsibility with a lot of respect, you never know who’s life you can change for the better (or worse).

16. You will never please everyone; so stop trying.

17. I’m a mess without God, sleep, healthy food, exercise and a balance of alone time and social time. My darling friend S used to be the best at checking me on these things. If I called her, broken down, she would run through a list of questions before she asked me “what was wrong”…I learned to do a self-check when life seemed a bit too heavy. If all of the above were in place and I still felt off…something was really wrong.

18. Living an outward focused life only brings joy. I don’t smoke, never have, but a friend of mine told me that when she smoked her life was always full of more anxiety. When I questioned why, she noted that when she lit a cigarette, she would have time to mull over the issues in her life. She would become inwardly focused and her anxiety would rise…even if she hadn’t been anxious in the first place. Sure, we have to care for ourselves, but when I try and live with others in mind suddenly life doesn’t seem so heavy.

19. Puppies can make anyone smile…yeah…just try and look at a puppy and not be happy. I dare you.

20. Friends become family. Having lived away from home since I was 18 I have come to value my friends with high regard. They are truly the family you get to choose. Choose wisely and be a good friend.

21. Other people’s choices and actions reflect on them, not you. I often take things to heart. The best lesson I was taught is that most often, what others do, is not a reflection on you, but on what’s going on inside of them, or maybe simply how bad their day was. If you’re really concerned, talk to them…otherwise move on.

22. Do everything with passion. If you hate what you do change it or figure out a part that you can be passionate about and cultivate that.

23. Surround yourself with passionate people…boring people lead boring lives. You get one, make it count.

24. Appreciate people for who they are, not what you need them to be. Once I stopped wanting people to fulfil a particular aspect in my life it all became a lot easier (probably for them too).

25. Once in a while, eat ice cream even if it makes you sick. Maybe ice cream isn’t your thing, but it goes back to balance. I am soooo allergic to ice cream and it’s not going to help my health, but once in a while…just because I really want it, I eat it…feel a bit sick, but just enjoy the moment and realise that it’s not going to kill me. (if you’re allergic to peanuts, please do not try this at home). You get the gist though right? It all goes back to balance.

26. Understanding a second, third, fourth language brings more than communication, it brings understanding. If there’s one lesson I have learned about living in a country that I have no linguistic connection to, is that language is more about words, it is about culture. The more I think about the language, the way people communicate, the more I understand the culture I live in.

27. Leadership shows mainly in the quiet and small things. In order to lead in life your actions don’t always have to be big, you don’t always have to be the centre of attention. Leadership is most often shown in the way that we do our every day.

28. No matter how old you get, you’ll always feel 12 when you go home to family…enjoy it.

29. Spend a lot of time in the sunshine. My new favourite thing is to get up early on the days i’m not going to the gym and go for a run. Often in Sweden (in the Spring) it’s really sunny first thing then may cloud over…those first few rays of Vitamin D are nature’s medicine.

30. You really do become like the people you surround yourself with…be aware. I was taught that you should constantly evaluate who you are allowing to speak into your life and who you spend time with. Not only will you become like the people you are with, but who they are will reflect on what others think of you. Choose wisely.

UPDATED…

So I’ve lived 31 for a few months now…I’m *almost* 31 and a half and life has brought a whole lot of lessons in the last few months. I figured, rather than trying to do this again I would simply add to this list…because knowledge never goes bad.

31. Take each day as it comes…don’t get through a day, feel it, experience it, love it…and don’t worry so much about what comes next.

32. Remember what you have been promised. I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future (Jer 29:11-12), he wants, can and will give you more than you ever imagined, abundantly more than you could dream of or expect. Sometimes we forget what the bible says, what God has promised us in the our quiet moments with him (or in my case, apparently YELLING it into my heart because I can forget to listen). We stop and forget that His plans, his Promises are infinitely better than what we can construct. Sure, short term we enjoy what we have pushed, strived and struggled to create instead of resting in Him and doing well with what is in our hands. Stop and remember.

33. Loving yourself is the ONLY way to live. I have been through stages in life where I have loved literally all of me, every inch, every aspect, every character flaw. It’s in those seasons (because admittedly, this comes and goes), that my life has bloomed and flourished in ways I would never imagine.

34. You CAN do it. I have no idea of what that is to you..but I have just gotten my Masters degree (something I sat a desk dreaming about for years), I have moved across countries multiple times, I have run a 1/2 marathon (and I won’t again). All of these things, despite being pretty cool, are just more proof that I can do whatever I put my mind to, I really can. It’s sometimes just about figuring out a way to do that. Get an imagination…

35. Stop being afraid. I’m talking love here people. Well, maybe not love, but it could be love. Do you think someone is cute? You find a guy attractive. Show him. I’m not propagating that you ask a guy out (I’m too traditional for that), but remember you’re just as awesome, why not make it known. From what my friends say…guys are just as afraid to let you know they might like you…the least we can do girls, is to show it. Men, we want to go on a date, with you…don’t be weird, don’t think we want to get married. We probably just want to have a fun day out or a nice dinner where we can wear our heels and get to know someone new.

36. If it’s bothering you that much, say something. Oh friends. We love them but we don’t want to hurt them. However, if there is something going on with a good friend, maybe you should take them for a coffee or a big glass of wine and see what is up. We are not all open books (although I seem like it, I’m really private). Sometimes that thing that is bothering you is also bothering your friend. Be real with each other.

37…Be okay with where you are today. When I am sick I find that I am MY OWN ENEMY. This also happens if I have too much time on my hands. Idle hands are truly dangerous. While I have goals and aspirations I found one simple thing: When I was not completely okay with where I am today, I never go anywhere. Everyone starts somewhere. Start today.

 

All about the bass or don’t change for love.

Disclaimer: I believe that everyone is on a journey in life. For some it’s mental health, some spiritual, some physical, some emotional. Basically we are all in progress. While we are in the process we need to remember that we are enough, the way we are. Also, there are some parts of us we cannot change, where we are from, what happened in the past, or our ancestry. Please read the following with that in mind.

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Last weekend I competed in a booty challenge. Okay, so let’s clarify this and please keep reading. My amazing, gorgeous friend of African decent challenged me to basically shake my butt. In Public. In front of boys.

I did.

Did I think it through? Did I philosophise over it? No, but I did pause briefly and think whether I should be doing it and I went for it! It was fun. We laughed, we shook our tushes and we just had a good time. It showed a piece of the slightly crazy girl I can be…

Being an ex-pat I am constantly aware of how different I am. As much as we do not want to admit it, we consistently make judgements and assumptions based on everything from nationality, to accent, to physical appearance. I have experienced it all. It never makes it any easier. Whether we like it or not it it is how society functions. In order to keep things simple we ask questions like, where are you from or what do you do? These things shape “who we are” to others.

I’m writing this blog because my heart is breaking. In the not-so-distant past I have had too many conversations from too many people (both men and women) who are in some way not happy about who they are.

The reason?

Someone has said no to dating them or equally so, they have not been out on many, if any dates recently. Some of these have been explicitly because this person had something “different” about them to what the other person felt was okay for them. Some reasons truly shallow and others, well, each of us have the right to date who we like, this is not the issue I am addressing. I am not going to spend the remainder of this blog post on the dating scene, particularly the Christian dating scene, that’s not my purpose here. I am addressing the fact that these circumstances have seemingly lessened who a person is, to themselves.

My purpose is to remind you of this: 

You are enough.

My very wise pastor Gary Clarke once said, the person you are meant to marry will likely be the person to whom you look over one day, (as you run with and toward your purpose and goals), who is running beside you. So just keep focused on those (and Jesus), and maybe look over once in awhile. You might be surprised.

There’s a great song out currently called “All about the bass” by Meghan Trainor. Some of the lyrics go like this:

Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I’m supposed to do
‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places

I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real
C’mon now, make it stop
If you got beauty, beauty, just raise ‘em up
‘Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top

Trainor’s lyrics specifically talk about body image and I love the line which goes “I see the magazine working’ that Photoshop, We know that shit ain’t real, C’mon now, make it stop”.

We need to stop the photoshopping of who we are.

Remember, maybe the girls will only remember, that movie Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts? That girl didn’t know how she liked her eggs because she always said she liked the kind of eggs that the man she was dating liked.

By the end of the movie she sat with 30 plates of eggs in front of her, trying to figure out what SHE loved.

The truth is that we were created very uniquely, we all like our eggs differently, or not at all.

Psalm 139:13-16 states,

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

You are created to be who you are. God knew your body shape, he created your personality, he knew the struggles you would have, the talents, the dreams. He knew that you would move across countries or stay in your home town. He knew that maybe you need a little help with getting motivated or that the person who would one day hold your hand in marriage would need to be just as driven as you were.

So then why do we always look at ourselves, criticise our lives when we have not yet found “the one”? It needs to stop and it needs to stop now.

If someone doesn’t like that you come from a particularly country, forget them. If someone calls you intimidating (yep, seriously), then forget it. If someone doesn’t like that you have a fabulous booty, forget it!

When I have a moment, frustrated waiting for the love of my life I think about a couple things…

First, I find it unattractive if a person is not pursuing life with passion and drive, we have one life, why waste any of it?

Second, why would I waste energy being someone I am not.

Third, a very dear friend of mine once said to me “M, I hope that one day a man recognises the woman you are and who you will be, and doesn’t let you go”. I could trust this man to have my best interest at heart, and so I treasure those words.

In someways the third piece of advice is what I want you to remember the most…

There will be someone who loves you not despite your booty, your drive and your love of sushi. Okay, a bit specific but you get it. Right? Being in a relationship is difficult. It is work. I am sure that marriage is 100 times more difficult (at least that’s what my friends who are married say). Why would we want to sleep by someone who doesn’t love ALL of you? Really. LIKE SERIOUSLY!?

stop, breathe and go out and be fabulous. It’s the single most attractive thing out there: Someone living their life passionately, fully and with purpose.

Update: I also want to add that until you love yourself, no relationship, even between friends is really going to work…but that’s the next post…

 

To Honour her Legacy

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My beautiful Oma passed away a few months ago and today, as I washed the blanket she carefully crocheted for me just ten years ago I was reminded of the lessons she left me. In the last couple of years of my Oma’s life I saw her less and less, but I came to realize more and more how much I was like her. Perhaps this is the reason that we butt heads so often…our fiery, stubborn personalities were what bonded us and created tension all at once.
Personality aside, I learned a lot from Oma  and I reckon the world needs more people like her so here are a few pieces of My Oma…

1) Even the pennies count: I can be guilty of spending money simply for the pleasure of a good cup of coffee or that feeling of a brand new, snugly sweater. However, my Oma, a pastor’s wife and a child of war understood, sometimes to a fault, the value of money. While she too loved beautiful things she also picked up literally EVERY penny.
She knew that money had value and that we should not wasted anything. Her habit of picking up every penny meant that we all always had our favourite chocolate or treat waiting at Oma’s house.

Which leads me to the next point…

2) Value every one individually: Although Oma had 4 kids and a plethora of grandkids, most of which are female, she understood that we all needed different things. Oma knew that spending time with me, cuddling on the couch spoke to my love languages. She understood that always having Opa’s favourite cologne or jam spoke to his needs. Even in death Oma was prepared. Just days after her promotion to heaven Opa, with tears in his eyes spoke to me of how he found his favourite jars of jam stacked up in the cupboard, waiting for him, as if she knew she was going.
Oma knew that we all need different things in life, whether it was a hug or are favourite cookies Oma understood the power of loving individually.

 

3) The power of the living word: Oma never got out of bed without spending time with God and his Word. Whenever I stayed at Oma and Opa’s house we would read our devotions and pray together. I never felt like I could conquer the world more on those days and when I did feel a bit weak I remembered Oma would have spent time praying for me that morning. I was covered. She taught us that no matter the circumstance we were in God was there for you, through prayer or his words.

 

4) Honesty: My grandparents could fight! I think my aunt and I got all our fiery spirit from my Oma. I didn’t know her as a mom, I knew her as a grandma, something very different than what Oma may have been like as a young woman…However, Oma was never dishonest. She told you and everyone else what she thought, but because she loved you, you knew it was okay. Oma was the only person who told me that my ex wasn’t the person for me. She was quiet but firm and I appreciated it now (not so much then I can tell you…). Her desire for truth and direct attitude showed me that in this world that’s the only way to live. Why be anything you are not? What do you gain by not being truthful.

 

5) What love is: Okay, so Oma is not the only one who taught me this lesson, many people have contributed to this very important lesson…but Oma showed me in ways only a grandmother can…
In how she got up early to peel grapefruit for ALL the grandkids.

In how she made us all “Oma cookies” for every birthday.

The way she stayed up and sang me to sleep when I was afraid.

The way she honoured my Opa and the calling to ministry they had on each of their lives.

Love is not only a choice but it is also truly practical. You can say I love you all you want but it’s only in your actions that love is truly felt.

I don’t know where my life will take me or whom I will share it with, but no matter who crosses my path I hope that I can carry on the legacy of love shared with me and all those whose lives she touched.

Day by Day or “how hard it is not to worry…”

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“There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human’s mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.” 
― C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters

Approximately two and a half years ago I began to feel like my life, as I knew it was over, it was changing. It was what I now recognise as a time where God was changing my heart and preparing me for the next season. I can recall sitting in my wee studio apartment in southwest London crying because I could not understand why I felt so restless and yet so scared of change.

It was about 10 months later when I was sat in my new apartment in Stockholm that I could see all that God had been doing. Why was I ever concerned?

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. -Romans 1:20 

In just over seven weeks I will be in a position for God, with all his eternal power and divine nature, to do amazing miracles in my life. I literally have no plan as to what I will do next, except to find a job that I am passionate about or re-start a few old projects of mine. Aside from being able to food and clothe myself, I’m ready for life to take me where I will best show the greatness of a God that wants the world to see how loved they are.

However, in my humanity I still worry some days and get scared about finding a job in a country I’m still not fluent in the language…so, my daily reminder is to stand in the belief that as I go by my day-by-day he will make the way, he will carve out my path.

“People are without excuse”

I am without excuse, my life is His.

What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?  I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.

I know that whatever God does,
It shall be forever.
Nothing can be added to it,
And nothing taken from it.
God does it, that men should fear before Him.
That which is has already been,
And what is to be has already been;
And God requires an account of what is past. -Ecclesiastes 3:9-15

I was listening to a podcast this morning, about God’s will for our lives. He was talking about worrying about decisions we will make, from dating or getting married to selling a business or moving. The speaker quoted Colossians 3:17 which says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

So, that’s it…do everything in His name.

He will guide me.

He will open doors no man can shut.

The future is in His hands.

For Love overcomes all fear

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I’m not exactly what you call, shy. Really? The girl who writes about her entire life and puts it out for the world to see…shy? Never…

Even at ten years old, when my fellow classmates were asked to describe me in a class exercise I got a lot of “can get whatever she wants” and “is nice” but shy was definitely not an adjective to describe me.

Then why, when it comes to certain aspects of my life, particularly when it relates being interested in someone it is that exact word I’ve used of late to describe how I feel or why I’m not more obvious or direct with what I may feel towards someone. When asked why I don’t just come out and be direct with someone about how I feel, I often justify away by saying “that’s not how I was raised” or “girls do not pursue” and while these things are true for me, I think that it’s more than that.

It’s fear. It’s fear that it won’t work out.

It’s a huge risk to say “Hey, look at me. Choose me.”

Although I use the example of romance, this is true in so many situations, when applying for a new job, when thinking about starting your own company. Putting yourself out there and being vulnerable takes courage. When you ask someone to choose you, in whatever situation it’s scary. Fundamentally, when there’s ever a moment in your life where you don’t know what’s next and you simply need to take a giant leap (or maybe even a small step) it is far too easy to be ruled by fear.

I’ve learned that unfortunately it’s often because of past experiences we are filled with fear in future situations. Rejection, humiliation or even allowing the wrong people to speak into your life can set us on a path of destruction and fear that God never meant for us to be on. Sometimes it’s just even a situation or circumstance that was completely out of your control, and now you can’t shake the memory.

For me, it was a good relationship gone bad, where I was told that everything that made him want to be with me originally, was everything he detested and couldn’t handle in the end. I was too much. It made me fear being myself completely and showing someone my heart.

It paralysed me and eventually I got through it. I’m so not proud of that time in my life, but thankfully God uses all things for good and from it I learned a few things…

1. God created us not with a spirit of fear but that of a sound mind.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. -2 Timothy 1:7

Yes, there’ll be moments when you can feel fear, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have the power to change our thoughts and not allow it to rule us.

2. When it comes to my life I only ever want what God wants for me. Whether it’s a relationship, a job or a friendship…a move to a new country *cough Sweden cough*

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11

He has plans for you…He has plans for me. Ultimately, whatever my life looks like all I want to do is glorify God and show His love to the world. Why would you want to live a life that wasn’t meant to be yours? Why would you want to chase anything situation, be it a man or a position in a company that wasn’t totally completely enamoured by you? It takes too much energy to be in a place where the fit isn’t right.

2. He created me (and you) uniquely and the world (and probably a certain someone) needs that person.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. -Psalm 139

Whatever it is, a relationship or a job or a part in a play. Our gifts, talents and personality were created for a purpose on purpose. We cannot let fear dictate our steps. We were made in His image. You are wonderful! Of course we all have things to work on, I mean, life is a journey, but you are amazing, learn to love yourself.

3. God wants us to live our lives in Him and through His strength, not our own.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. -Phil 4:13

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. -Isaiah 40:29

My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word. -Psalm 119:28

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2 Corinthians 12:9-10

We’re not doing this life alone. God is always with you, in all situations, stop, breathe and take it to him…He will give you everything you need to do life well.

So, what I’ve been practicing and that which I am still learning to do in all situations (control issues much?) is to keep my heart and my mind focused on Him. I know that the plan for my life is good and if my heart is set on the right path then I don’t have to be afraid to show the real me…

Right now, for me, after I turn in my thesis the world is a blank slate and I know that…the BEST is yet to come.

 

30 things

30 Things

It’s only a few days until my birthday and in the midst of all the thesis writing, getting ready for parties and Easter I wanted to take a moment and write what I’ve learned over the last few years.

I’m not about posts that tell everyone else how to live their lives or give you a three-point system to being successful, happy, loved, content etc. I am, however, a big fan of sharing…I believe that the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is not only true, but also something that never changes. It’s not without the wisdom, trials, advice and celebrations of others that I would have already made it this far.

With this in mind, before the date changes over and I’m well and truly into my 30s here are 30 things that I have learned…I would love for you to add to this list and share what you think too!

Note: there’s no order in this list…no importance, no rating…just lessons.

1. Life is about balance…whether it’s in health, in relationships, or in how much time you spend staring at your smart phone, we all need balance in our lives. Without balance there’s a good chance you will go mad (crazy). If something feels off, check if something is taking too much of your energy or devotion and change your priorities.

2. There only two constants in your life: you & God. If it’s one lesson I have learned is that no one, not even your parents are going to be a constant in your life. Although we’re designed to be in community, in relationship, we need to ensure that we take care of our relationship with ourselves and God first. If these are in place you can serve the world from a much better, and healthier, position.

3. People are mean. Face it, you’re mean, i’m mean. Thankfully, most of the time it’s only a moment and driven by emotion or maybe just not eating a snack (can we talk about “hanger”?). Get over it. If you were mean to someone, apologise and move on. If you’ve been hurt…deal with it. Holding onto that which is negative really can kill you.

4. People are often just curious. SO STOP TELLING EVERYONE EVERYTHING. Honestly, I spent too much of my 20s justifying why I didn’t want to go to this party or that event. I told too many people what I was feeling or who I may have been interested in. It’s none of anyone’s business and often “care” is curiosity!

5. You cannot control anything but your decisions and subsequent actions. This is the big lesson I learned in my 20s. I tried to make my life like a chess game. Life isn’t chess…Life is Twister, Snakes and Ladders and often even Solitaire. You can’t figure out what’s going to happen or try to manipulate the situation. Your best bet is to learn to simply respond with grace and maturity to anything that comes your way…it will all fall into place.

6. Thankful is the only attitude you need. This may come across as odd, I really believe that if you do anything with love you will have the best life, but with that, out of that comes and attitude of gratitude; a thankful heart. I have learned that if we constantly look for something to be grateful for then life becomes a lot lighter and people actually want to be around you.

7. I am unique…and so are you. Life is not one size fits all. Aside from the simple (and yet often hard to grasp) lesson that we are all on our own journeys, this is more a practical statement. You are going to wear a different clothes size then the girl standing next to you. You may be better at football than your flatmate but he can rip you to shreds on a surf board. You may need to stay away from meat but you love pasta. Find what makes you healthy and strong and go with that…

8. If you knew what was ahead you would cry, scream, throw a fit, want it so bad that you would mess it up. I remember a message that Christine Caine once spoke, she said that if we knew that we were going to be in 5, 10 or even 20 years you would either become too proud to get there or too scared and fall in a crumbled mess. I love that looking back I can see the thread that got me where I am today. We really need each day to get to the next…give yourself grace to get there in the right time.

9. Water is the best drink. Fact.

10. God really does love you. This is an entire blog post in itself or maybe even a long conversation over a cup of coffee, but it’s true. He loves you and wants you to know that.

11. Cultivating a “Jesus heart” is the only way to live life. This has been my 2014 challenge, a real, “What would Jesus do” kind of challenge. So far, it’s well…hard but the results have been amazing…I’ll keep you updated.

12. Expectations of others only ever bring pain. It’s that simple, when we put expectations into a situation, we’re trying to control the outcome. Just let it go (cue the soundtrack from Disney’s Frozen).

13. God truly opens doors no one can shut and shuts those no one can open. A few months ago I prayed that God would show me the direction a relationship was going. I think God knows that I don’t easily give in to situations because within days he slammed a door shut so hard I didn’t even want to open it…Ask. He’ll show you.

14. People rely on me. And people rely on you…let your yes be yes and your no be no. Be of good character and do it out of love.

15. Influence is not about position. When you have had a title and then not had a title this lesson is a lot clearer, but I learned that my actions, really my life, are always being watched. I will guarantee you that you have someone who is looking up to you to see what you are doing or how you will react. Treat that responsibility with a lot of respect, you never know who’s life you can change for the better (or worse).

16. You will never please everyone; so stop trying.

17. I’m a mess without God, sleep, healthy food, exercise and a balance of alone time and social time. My darling friend Sarah used to be the best at checking me on these things. If I called her, broken down, she would run through a list of questions before she asked me “what was wrong”…I learned to do a self-check when life seemed a bit too heavy. If all of the above were in place and I still felt off…something was really wrong.

18. Living an outward focused life only brings joy. I don’t smoke, never have, but a friend of mine told me that when she smoked her life was always full of more anxiety. When I questioned why, she noted that when she lit a cigarette, she would have time to mull over the issues in her life. She would become inwardly focused and her anxiety would rise…even if she hadn’t been anxious in the first place. Sure, we have to care for ourselves, but when I try and live with others in mind suddenly life doesn’t seem so heavy.

19. Puppies can make anyone smile…yeah…just try and look at a puppy and not be happy. I dare you.

20. Friends become family. Having lived away from home since I was 18 I have come to value my friends with high regard. They are truly the family you get to choose. Choose wisely and be a good friend.

21. Other people’s choices and actions reflect on them, not you. I often take things to heart. The best lesson I was taught is that most often, what others do, is not a reflection on you, but on what’s going on inside of them, or maybe simply how bad their day was. If you’re really concerned, talk to them…otherwise move on.

22. Do everything with passion. If you hate what you do change it or figure out a part that you can be passionate about and cultivate that.

23. Surround yourself with passionate people…boring people lead boring lives. You get one, make it count.

24. Appreciate people for who they are, not what you need them to be. Once I stopped wanting people to fulfil a particular aspect in my life it all became a lot easier (probably for them too).

25. Once in a while, eat ice cream even if it makes you sick. Maybe ice cream isn’t your thing, but it goes back to balance. I am soooo allergic to ice cream and it’s not going to help my health, but once in a while…just because I really want it, I eat it…feel a bit sick, but just enjoy the moment and realise that it’s not going to kill me. (if you’re allergic to peanuts, please do not try this at home). You get the gist though right? It all goes back to balance.

26. Understanding a second, third, fourth language brings more than communication, it brings understanding. If there’s one lesson I have learned about living in a country that I have no linguistic connection to, is that language is more about words, it is about culture. The more I think about the language, the way people communicate, the more I understand the culture I live in.

27. Leadership shows mainly in the quiet and small things. In order to lead in life your actions don’t always have to be big, you don’t always have to be the centre of attention. Leadership is most often shown in the way that we do our every day.

28. No matter how old you get, you’ll always feel 12 when you go home to family…enjoy it.

29. Spend a lot of time in the sunshine. My new favourite thing is to get up early on the days i’m not going to the gym and go for a run. Often in Sweden (in the Spring) it’s really sunny first thing then may cloud over…those first few rays of Vitamin D are nature’s medicine.

30. You really do become like the people you surround yourself with…be aware. I was taught that you should constantly evaluate who you are allowing to speak into your life and who you spend time with. Not only will you become like the people you are with, but who they are will reflect on what others think of you. Choose wisely.

And as a bonus…

31. Take each day as it comes…don’t get through a day, feel it, experience it, love it…and don’t worry so much about what comes next.

 

Faith through the storm–to my Oma

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My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do for you…

Those words ring through my memories, off-key and accented, but beautiful nonetheless.

I was under five years old and almost, most definitely, terrified of lightning. It’s amusing now because as I’ve grown up, I have also grown to love thunder and lightning storms. Perhaps it’s because of that song and the memories of a child, scared in an attic room, that I am so comforted by the same sight and sounds now. The thunder and lightning fuel my faith rather than frighten me in my humanity.

I used to spend summers in Toronto with my grandparents. Being very humid and very hot and all that scientific stuff, Ontario is known for crazy summer storms. I would lay in bed, in my grandparents home, stricken with fright. Crying until, that is, my Oma would come find me and snuggle up in bed with me.

Oma is a powerhouse. She’s a petite fireball. There isn’t a memory that I have that doesn’t contain Oma talking about God or praying. Oh…and chocolate…Oma loves chocolate. Her home, as far as I can remember, always has a pantry FULL of chocolate and open to everyone.

My Oma is sick now. We’re not sure what’s happening, we know there’s no cancer in her blood or lungs, but we’re still not sure what’s happening with the mass in her stomach. Most people can’t imagine what someone else would feel like in her situation, but I can.

You see, for all our faults, my Oma and I are more alike than I sometimes care to admit. We feel so deeply that it hurts, we love more passionately and with more heart than sometimes I think people should. Her faith, my faith, are so important to us. We HATE when people don’t understand our point of view. We also have the worst tell. If we aren’t, let’s just say a fan of someone in our company, maybe that person makes us feel uncomfortable, it’s obvious. The chatterboxes we are disappear and our body language becomes stagnant. It’s like pulling teeth from a shark to make us talk. We live our lives fully for others, we enjoy our time away from everyone. She left her family for love, to move to a country far away, to have a better life, to live with her best friend. Sometimes I think that if Oma had been born closer to my age we would have gone on a lot of adventures together. Sometimes I think that if I had been born when she did, I would have left my family for love to. I think I still would.

The one thing that Oma has taught me and continues to teach me is about faith and conviction. Though we don’t always agree on some of the legalities of our beliefs (she definitely wishes I never got inked), Oma has taught me faith and courage of conviction. She stands up for what is right, what is the truth. She stands up for her family, for the ones who have less, the ones who can’t fight for themselves. She doesn’t stand for injustice and her grace, her grace is much more than I ever imagine I could give.

I’m far away and sometimes it’s hard to know that I may not see her again. I mean, even before this health scare that was a possibility. There are a lot of people I may never see again…I don’t know. However, I know that, knowing why I have walked my own path, that, even if she wants me near her, she allows me to do what God wants me to do and covers me in prayer.

So back to those nights, those loud, thunder-filled nights…Oma would crawl into my bed and sing me to sleep.

My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.

And now…

That God, the God who is the same yesterday, today and forever…that God who is so strong and so mighty…we’re believing that He’s maybe not ready to have Oma preaching at Him in Heaven. We’re believing that whatever is attacking her body will be rid of and she will have many more years with her family. I mean, who’s going to make sure that the right guy marries me? Oma will have a say…

And if not, whatever happens…Oma’s legacy will live on in the faith that she has installed in all of the lives she touches and continues to touch.

This is to my Oma…Your God is so great, there’s nothing He won’t do for you.

Make you feel my love (or, A Simple Message)

The days had just turned, from bright, sunny and warm to stark, cool with just a hint of frost in the air. I stood at the window in my kitchen, staring into the courtyard.

When the rain is blowing in your face and the whole world is on your case

I could offer you a warm embrace to make you feel my love

Warm liquid hit my hands as I looked down and realized that tears were falling down my cheeks onto my now still hands.

When the evening shadows and the stars appear and there is no one there to dry your tears

I could hold you for a million years to make you feel my love.

 It had been a hard week. Dealing with issues that had come up of rejection I no longer knew how to cope. I was doing what every good German girl does (or so my Oma says), I was cleaning to deal. I was cleaning to cope.

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet

But I would never do you wrong

I’ve known it from the moment

That we met no doubt in my mind

Where you belong

Those words tore into my rejected heart. Years of pain built up, as I listened to the voice of a girl from Essex belt out a love song.

But it didn’t feel like a love song from a woman to a man. It felt stronger, deeper and much more than simple words.

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue and I’d go crawling down the avenue

You Know there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17″For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. John 3:16-17

 Jesus. My God. My savior, my Lord, nailed to the cross because I was loved, am loved, so much that He died for me. He died for you.

The storms are raging on the rolling sea and on the highway of regret

The winds of change are blowing wild and free

You ain’t seen nothing

Like me yet.

There are days that are good. There are days that are absolutely incredible. There are days where I sit on the bathroom floor wishing that I still wasn’t dealing with the pain.

There are days that will be awful and there will be days that will incredible.

There will always be “days”.

However, bigger, strong and more powerful than a day is one the we call Messiah, Yahweh, Lord Almighty, El-Shaddai.

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true

Nothing that I wouldn’t do

Go to the ends of the Earth for you

To make you feel my love, To make you feel my love

He’s longing for you like he longs for me.

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

 His message is simple. He loves.