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…