Dare to Dream Again

 

 

dream again

She stood in the storm and when the winds did not blow her away, she adjusted her sails.

Almost 6 years ago”A” bought me a ring with that quote inscribed inside. What neither of us realised then was how much those words would carry me through not only that season, but also again five years later.

July Twenty Sixteen my life changed once again, a storm would force me to make a choice, to once again adjust my sails. Admittedly life wasn’t bad nor was I particularly dreaming about a next step. I was happy. Apparently, God has other plans.

“God told me that he is asking you to step out of the boat. He says you need to trust him 110%. He is about to fulfill the desires of your heart. You weren’t doing what you loved–and he wants you to do what you love.”

(there’s more, but that’s all you get to hear).

It’s funny when God speaks through your friends. Over the next three months, God repeatedly told different people the same thing. One by one delivering the same message to me.

Adjust your sails. 

Step out of the boat. 

DREAM AGAIN. 

I wish I could have told you that God immediately showed me the next step. How to get out of the boat, the right way to step, the path to take. I wish I could tell you that the last nine months has been simple and straightforward.

It hasn’t.

It’s caused me to question my faith. It’s caused me to question my sanity. I even think it’s lost me a few relationships along the way. I’ve given up a lot, but at the same time, I have gained so much.

I’m 33 and I’m not starting over.

I’m dreaming again.

When a ship sails into a storm it doesn’t rebuild the ship. The captain doesn’t say to the crew “oh em gee you have failed and up until now forget everything you did and start over.” The captain orders the crew to change course, to adjust the sales.

In life, when a storm comes, we don’t forget what we know, what we have done, what we have accomplished. We take what we have learned in the past, the skills we have acquired and adjust our sails. We handle it.

So, here I am, adjusting my sales, changing course. Dreaming again.

It’s not easy. There are days I cry. There are days I want to throw some stuff or yell at God. There are days when I want to give in. Where I don’t feel understood, heard or even seen.

But mainly there are days where I am thankful. There are days of rest. There are days of small victories (yay!!) There are days where I write pages and pages in my journal, dreaming, looking forward, planning.

Looking forward to that day when those dreams that line the pages of my journal, the whispers of my heart come to full fruition.

“For what it’s worth, it is never too late to be who you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find you’re not, I hope you find the strength to start over”

 

 

 

Chasing the Dream

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She handed me a notebook and a modern feathered pen and said “never stop writing”.

I cried.

I cried because I knew she was right.

I cried because I knew what I had to do.

And yet, I still stalled.

I am a risk taker. But what others may not see, is that I take calculated risks.

Being a writer is not a calculated risk.

So I stalled. I’ve stalled all summer. I’ve looked for jobs, I have been part of extensive interview processes. I have laughed. I have cried. I have talked. I have prayed.

Oh I have prayed.

And yet the whisper came again. And again.

Many plans are in a man’s mind,
But it is the Lord’s purpose for him that will stand (be carried out). prov 19:21

 

 

And so…with that in mind…I decided to jump and suddenly everything began to fall into place.

And that’s where I end this post…

Watch this Space.

6 things I Have Learned about living in the “In Between”

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5 November 2005. I had been living in London all of 70 something days and I was at a “Hillsong Women” event or as we know it now, The Sisterhood. It would be the first time I met Christine Caine and the first of many times God used her to punch me straight in the face.

She spoke on “and you will”…those moments between Asking and Receiving.

“Ask, and it shall be given you…” Matthew 7:7

I remember distinctly how she spoke about being prepared and ready for what God was going to give you, the direction he was sending you. She eloquently illustrated it by comparing these in between seasons with having a child. If the baby arrives too early then there are often problems because the child isn’t developed enough to leave the protection of the mama. Similarly, if you are baking a cake, if you take it out too early it’s not baked and you could get sick from the raw egg. When things come too early we aren’t ready.

There have been more than one of these in between seasons for me in recent years. Looking back, it’s perhaps my rush of the in-between that has led to needing to redo those seasons more than once. Either way, I learned six fundamental lessons that haven’t only helped me through this season, but grew my faith and made me better.

  1. You need to shut up and listen: if you’re anything like me you try and figure out what is going on. You talk to a million people, read, talk some more, try to sort it out in your head. When I stopped, and in this particular season, took a literal break from reality and went to Greece on 22 hours notice, it allowed God to be able to speak to me. I stopped talking and God began to pour out His love and encouragement over my life. When we quiet ourselves God can speak directly to us, or through others to show us what He is doing.
  2. Rest: I am not good at this one and sometimes I feel like God forces me into it. Probably a bit like a parent who makes their slightly fevered child stay in bed all day, even when the child feels “okay”, our Father knows our health levels. When we are in the between, don’t always try and rush it, rest because He knows how “well” we need to be for our next step.
  3. Keep on, keeping on: It’s easy in the in between to forget the rest. For example, when waiting for a new job, we may get so caught up in it that we forget our other goals, like working out regularly. Or perhaps you’re waiting for the love of your life to come along, but in the meantime you’re not cultivating other relationships or using your single status to serve others. We are, whatever the next step is, the most attractive when we are busy being us, fabulously. So, keep on, keeping on, you’ll attract the next best thing.
  4. Ask, ask and ask some more: No, I am not saying beg God for that job, that boyfriend, that raise. I am saying ask God what He is trying to teach you in this season. A few months ago I was in a similar situation and God came through fast. This time, when I am again, deciding on my next steps I asked God why the other didn’t work out. Expecting something different I only heard this “Michelle, you kept asking for a job when I wanted to give you a life.” Right, schooled by the big guy upstairs. God has taught me so much in the last few weeks, but only because I sucked it up and asked for a performance review 😉
  5. Silence the Voices: These are not the voices in your head. We have already addressed this. These are the voices of EVERYONE ELSE. Seriously, I always want to ask everyone else what they’re thinking about my life decisions. It’s this utterly ridiculous need for affirmation I am working on…but really, don’t we all do it? It’s like “hey guys, when you text a girl you’re not just texting her…you’re texting at least 3 of her friends too”. We love getting opinions of others. I wrote about this a while ago, but when we are on our journey, and God is working on us in the process, we can so easily get off the path or be distracted by what others believe we are going through. Be wise, stop and like some great fashion editors say “before you go out of the house, take off one accessory”. Before we go getting everyone’s advice, step back and ask if it’s just too much.
  6. Find Your Faith: Okay, so I just said get rid of all the voices…except when it comes to building faith. Wherever you are in your “in between” times can get tough and we can lose our faith. I was so encouraged this past summer, when my Swedish mom said one small thing to me “when you don’t have faith, I will have faith for you.”It was like a weight, lifted off my shoulders. Sometimes we need some people around us who will have faith for us, sometimes we will be that for others. This isn’t about advice or opinions. This is about allowing others, who love and truly care for us, to be our faith, to point us in the right direction, to be our fuel.

I like to reflect on the Amplified version of the verse as I think about my current season: Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened.

Keep going…He always takes you through.

Write Your Vision…

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Then the Lord answered me and said,
“Write the vision
And engrave it plainly on [clay] tablets
So that the one who reads it will run.

For the vision is yet for the appointed [future] time
It hurries toward the goal [of fulfillment]; it will not fail.
Even though it delays, wait [patiently] for it,
Because it will certainly come; it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 (AMP)

Last night, prior to coming to church, I was thinking about life and what I wanted it to look like.

If you have read any number of posts I have written over the last four years you too may see the red thread, the struggles, the peaks, the values, the celebrations. As I come up to four years of living in Stockholm and pondering, dreaming, making plans for what may come next I have thought of it in the frame of how I see my life unfold.

Three years ago we were challenged, at Hillsong Conference, to write out our vision. Something akin to what Brian wrote many years ago, he challenged us to write our vision our “world that we see”. The Bible says to write your vision and make it plain…so why not?

Last week, as I took some time to think about where my life is today, I opened up my notebook from that time and began reading.

I realised, that although, the life I see, is unfolding now and the circumstances and situations I have experienced are shaping me.

So I am sharing mine with you, baring it all in hopes that you’re encouraged to do the same, to write your vision and see the beautiful and amazing way God answers.

The Life That I See

First and foremost, I see a life governed and framed by the knowledge that God is my Saviour, my hope, my redeemer and that Jesus came for my freedom. The life I see is lived with a resolve that all I do is framed by the conviction and commission that I am here to love God, be loved and show the world that God loves them and His Son died for everyone.

I see a life that is overflowing with God’s love and grace, so much so that people cannot help but ask why life is so different and want the same thing.

I see a life that is framed by grace, but with a longing to live not of this world, but in it, as a light, confronting others in a gentle way, that they understand and want it too.

I see a life that is overflowing in life, not for pride or to brag, but to show all He has done for me. A life where generosity is not simply a term, but a way of life. I see a life where money is no object so that I (and my family) can say yes to any need that may come our way and we feel led to support.

I see a family, who don’t just exist, but live life as a team. I see a marriage where our relationship reflects that of Christ and His church. A marriage, which honours the other person, chooses to love when it feels impossible, where divorce is not an option, where our goal is to help the other person become the best they can be and to see them live out every God-breathed dream and God-given destiny. I see a marriage where we have so much fun together that people always believe we are newlyweds. A marriage where courage and conviction ensures the other stays on path.

I see a home where love is tangible when you walk in the door. A home whose doors are open to friends, family and those in need.

I see a career that has no limits to creativity, financial blessing and strong relationships. I see a business so prosperous that it makes a huge impact on the world, so much that the world has to stand up, take notice and that all glory goes to the God.

I see a life lived in peace, not in fear, in the security of Christ and with courage of conviction. I see a life lived where home is heaven.

 

 

From me to you: a blog without a title

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How do you tell someone that you are actually okay with where you are? How do you admit that you were always convinced that you wouldn’t marry until you were at least 30? More importantly, how do you admit that you allowed other people’s insecurities, life plans and expectations drive you to live outside the peace of God that you had so closely held onto all your life?

For me it was a shameful thing to admit.

When I was about 17 years old I had a very strong vision for my life, one that I do not recall sharing with anyone. It was like a snapshot of my life over the next 15 years, I saw myself in university, I saw myself moving away, I saw a beautiful apartment and a life to be envied. Most strikingly I saw myself single…and really really happy.

So off I went to university and was a happy girl. Sidenote: although I really would not change my life I do still have moments where I wish I had followed the dream and gone to Wellesley, studying only with women who had strong academic goals. Anyway, back to my life…

I went off to university and begun having those conversations. You know them, we all have them…so, when are you going to find a nice boy? Did you hear so and so hooked up? He really likes you, you should date him. The worst was one car ride where my friends spent the entire time driving up to the cabin matchmaking our group of friends so that we were almost all related or connected by marriage. It was a nightmare.

I dated some throughout university, had my many crushes…but really, looking back there was always the prevailing thought, that nagging voice that said “Michelle, you are destined for something so much more than what you would get if you settled here.”

(disclaimer: I have no inherent issues about marrying young, or dating, or any life choice that is different than mine. This is about MY choices and MY destiny (and consequently the man I marry and our children)…

My life was a battle between what was “expected” of me and the vision and dreams God had placed on my heart. Amusingly enough none of the relationships that I had worked out and God used a pretty supernatural moment to get me over to Europe. I moved and settled in my life there.

I love God. I love the hope that Jesus brought and the life that He has given me. I am a person who naturally puts her heart and soul into what she does and so when I moved to London and got a just okay job (because I was so scared to fail) I put my entire heart and soul into church. Understand that I will always do that, but instead of finding a balance on a day to day basis I made my work second and my life at church the priority. I was not actually honoring God in a HUGE part of my life and yet I seemed like I was this good girl. Praise the LORD that we have grace and my life still had fruit and that God used me because of my willingness to serve him. However, on the professional side of my life I was lacking. I was not happy. I hated Sunday nights. I had lost sight of my goals. In actuality I had lost sight of what God put on my heart and therefore almost lost sight of him.

I spent many years pretending. I was sort of happy. I was sort of present in my daily life. I mean, I really do not know of how many people knew that I was not all me…but I knew and God knew. We can so easily hide ourselves in today’s world. Again it is only by God’s grace that I functioned, but this is a WHOLE other topic that I need to save for next week.

So, here I was living my life, going along, making friends and serving in church, but that path that I saw when I was 17? I was so far from it. It hurt to think about all that I was missing. I knew that when I got up each day and went to my various jobs that I was not on the right path. There was something missing, something akin to what I think it feels like to lose an arm. It was a phantom pain.

During this time there was also a lot of guys. Oh gosh. I will not get into detail, but instead of just enjoying friendships and seeing what would happen I began to feel the pressure of the people around me (again) to be discontent in my singleness. It says in the Bible that nothing can be taken away or added that is not from God. Ask me about that one day. I have 100 different stories. In hindsight (so wise hindsight is) my struggles in dating and relationships came from the fact that I was fighting God’s plan for me. He makes straight our paths, he levels mountains…he goes before us (Is 45) but if we are not following behind him…we can still be walking crookedly and climbing mountains when the narrow, calmer path sits parallel to ours.

I was a lost little soul and it was not until I felt like I had hit rock bottom that something changed. Work, love…it all escaped me. I was not even myself completely. I prayed and asked God to reveal who he wanted me to be again. My journey, too long for this post, took a number of steps including spending a 6 month period praying each week to make a commitment to love God. It meant jumping in deep and looking for a job that would be put me on track (even if it meant a pay cut). It meant giving up on dating until I could see clearly again. My vision so blurred by the expectations of others.

In life, some of us spend too much time listening to what others think or say. I believe the term for it is people-pleasers. I remember Phil Dooley speaking about this, about quitting people pleasing and chasing God instead.

It was in my lowest point where I turned my neck and started really chasing God. It was not that I had been away from Him, but that I conveniently allowed others to speak into my life.

You know, it was not all as bad as it seemed and if you speak to those around me now, who knew me then, you would never say “Michelle was not with God”…but there is a difference between loving God and seeking Him first.

It was when my priorities really changed that my life changed the most. Now, I am 31 and God has put me in a place, not without challenges or difficulties, but in a place of GRACE.

I wish some days that I could have just gone back to 17 and kept my eyes and heart focused on what He showed me at such a young age. However, now when God speaks directly into my heart, when He shows me His promises; when he whispers secrets to me that show me what is next, I listen. I listen and I take hold.

I no longer care if my FB feed is COVERED in engagements, weddings or babies. It does not phase me when my friends complain they are single. I do not long for another job or a different life, because I am living my life, my destiny and with God beside me, I will not falter.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

A New Level of Trust

I often hear the term “oh, I am waiting on God”. Actually, not only do I hear that term, but I myself have said it, numerous times, in context of anything from a relationship to a job, to any kind of answer for which I feel like I cannot control. I see it all the time, plastered across numerous blogs, preached in sermons, and most importantly even in the Bible.

In fact, every morning, at 9:55am I get a reminder flashed on my phone:

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

It has long been a topic on this blog about allowing God to take control.

Even recently I wrote about having a trust without borders and the lessons in peace and humility that allowing God to have control brought. However, it was not until I was spending time with an amazing friend in NYC that our discussion led to a new and deeper understanding of God and his timing.

You see, in January I strongly felt that God was telling me to stop even considering my next steps and to simply (not so simple) take each day and allow myself to do well with what was in my hands. Whilst I accepted this and as you can read in my post, learned many valuable lessons from that time. Funny though, because just 6 weeks after writing this post I began to get a bit antsy. It was only when I went to NYC and hung out with C that I began to understand what God was trying to teach me next.

10626453_10152435093227091_4653617695945005897_nC and I had not seen each other in years, but as only true friends can, we picked up where we had left out. It was in this discussion that God spoke to me. At first, difficult to articulate, I later came to understand this.

My child, you tell me you trust me, you make all the effort to do what is asked of you, but you still give me timelines.

It hit hard, the realisation that although I gave God my every day, it was with the subconscious understanding that he would provide when in my time. For me that meant that as I finished my thesis, I would go to a few interviews and miraculously I would have a job before the end of summer. Funny thing, our timing, it is rarely, I hasten to even say, never God’s.

Now, while God continually and faithfully provided for me from June to October when I finally got my full time position, it was not in the manner I saw coming.

Do you not believe, live in the complete understanding that I love you so much that I want to give you my very best. I see the desires of your heart, the longings of your soul, I put them there. I love you enough to keep you from that which will not be my best for you.

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides. Matt 6:33 (AMP)

It is much easier to say you will trust God for a spouse until you are in your 30s and you see your body adding hair in places you did not want.

It is much easier to trust God for that job until you are dangerously close to running out of money.

It is much easier to trust God for that new apartment until you have just bought another one and you have not sold your first.

It is always easier to trust God on our terms. For me, it used to be hard to trust God in even the small things…but as we grow, as we mature, God allows us to be stretched and grow. It used to be that I would take a job just because I was worried I could not pay the bills. This time, I trusted and I waited on Him…and again, he showed me His love in beautiful and even outstanding ways.

I guess what I am trying to say is that…

Fear not [there is nothing to fear], for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. Isaiah 41:10

Allow your trust in God to stretch you further, wait on Him…the answers will come…it may not be as tangible as a house, or a husband, it may be a lesson in understanding your purpose, your place, your destiny…

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6

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…