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.