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

To Honour her Legacy

love is new

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.

“I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at” or Get out of your comfort zone

 

 

Stood in front of the mirror, fresh from the shower, I had a few minutes to myself before I ventured out into the corridor again. On a winter trip with a few of the teens from my church I decided this was the year I was going to snowboard.

Pretty sure I made it up the KIDDIE hill (or Barnbacken på svenska)…oh, once.

I never thought I’d want to declare war on a tow-lift but alas even getting up the hill on that evil contraption was about as fear-inducing as going down, fast, while my feet were glued to a board.

So there I was, a few hours later, completely covered in bruises and feeling…amazing. Yet something I said to my friend B who was teaching me to board, run in my head…

“I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at.”

A few nights ago I was out with some friends for a movie when, prior to the movie, we were chatting and my Swedish skills were put to the test. One guy said to me, “Michelle, you need to get out of your comfort zone.”

You see, I can speak Swedish…and I understand so much, but I don’t speak it a lot with my friends. Why you ask?

 “I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at.”

Recently I started running again. I’m still thinking I’m going to sign up to another ½ marathon but for now, it’s just for me. I’m on day 26 of my 365 running challenge now. The first few days were a struggle. Not because of my fitness levels, but because I was pretty sure I looked ridiculous running. Have you seen those images on the internet? Those “What I think I look like when I’m running” vs “what I really look like.” One image usually involves a bikini clad super model and the other a slobbering hound.

Truth is, I don’t look like either of those but it’s amazing what our minds trick us into.

I’m in the middle of what I call my “life break”. It’s actually not a break from life, you can’t take a break from life but you can have a season where things change, where you break away from the norm, where you refocus and redirect. This is the season of life I am in.

It’s a season where I am constantly having to get out of my comfort zone. You see, I have a LOT of dreams and ambitions for life and frankly, prior to August 22 I was living a great life but I was also smack RIGHT in the middle of the comfort zone.

And with all the respect to my old life, which, to many, and even to me, was fantastic…it sucked.

I had become too reliant on norms, comforts and myself.

I was lounging in the comfort zone.

So, being…well me…as you all know I changed my life drastically and with only one focus to ensure I kept running my race well and towards the ultimate goal (Jesus, if you didn’t know). I want all of my life to focus on Him, bringing glory to Him and showing others His love and grace.

I figured if I’m running to Him then everything else will fall into place.

What I have learned though is that following Him has taken me so far out of my comfort zone that I am pretty much constantly uncomfortable.

 

Going to church…

Uncomfortable.

 

Going to school…

Uncomfortable…

 

Writing for Beyond Rubies and SoWorthLoving…

Uncomfortable…

 

Just all…uncomfortable. Although they are seemingly normal and mundane things to one person there are aspects that make all these things uncomfortable to me. There are aspects to each of these things that I am not good at.

“I don’t like doing anything that I am not good at.”

I know I have been called to a certain life, to accomplish particular things and this season in my life is preparing me for that.

But I think the greatest lesson I have learned is that it’s okay to just not be good at something.

I read this great quote…

As Christians we are called to live in excellence, to do all things for God and not for man.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31

And He is going to help us along…

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

So what I am trying to say is this…

Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t step, don’t tip toe…JUMP. He has given you everything you need to accomplish all that He has put on your heart.

 

Start today. Whether it’s writing a book or getting healthy. If it’s asking that girl out or talking to your neighbor who just needs a friend.

 

Do something that you are not good at.

Do something that scares you because you really never know what will come from it or whose life you will impact.

 

I got a letter after I wrote a particularly “scary” post on SWL. Without sharing someone else’s story the letter detailed how the post helped someone through a break up. The truth? I hated writing that post. I cried writing it. I didn’t want to share it because I knew that it might get a couple people angry (if they misunderstood my intentions), it was uncomfortable.

However, as I read the words of one girl knowing that she was worth more than rubies all the uncomfortable feelings I had left me and I realized that although I didn’t like doing it…it impacted someone.

So maybe snowboarding or speaking Swedish perfectly doesn’t seem like something that will impact or make a difference but who knows? At least I’m going to try…

Sometimes I just need to shut up

God will direct

“shut up, shut up, shut up!!” (Black Eye Peas song in your head yet?)

Do you ever scream that at yourself? You can hear yourself talking, babbling on and you just.can’t.stop.

I do. I talk when I get nervous. Recently sitting across from someone, after dinner, chatting, I knew I should just stop talking and enjoy the moment, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t keep silent because I did not know what would happen if I just stopped. I was scared. If I stopped talking I’d lose control of the conversation and anything could happen. (really I’m not neurotic…)

Sometimes I create noise just so that I don’t have have to stop and see what happens next. If I keep going…then at least I know where I am headed.

The thing is, I reckon we do that a lot with God. We keep ourselves busy, we fill the silence with talking, with internet, with music, with thoughts, with whatever distracts us from hearings God’s voice. If we keep talking or keep planning…keep ourselves, busy, then we can direct our lives. When we create a lot of noise then we allow ourselves to remain in control.

We say that we want what God has for us. We say that we trust God. We say that we want His plan but then our actions speak differently.

Recently I awoke early and did not need to get out of bed so I put on some worship music. Playing softly the words of “Oceans (where feet may fail)” filled my room and as I quieted my heart and mind I was again reminded of God’s providence.

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

I think of Peter when God called him onto the water. When he kept focused on God’s voice he walked fine. HE WALKED ON WATER! Seriously, this guy just got out of a boat, in a storm and walked on water. Have you tried walking on water lately? I live in Sweden and the closest thing I get is walking on ice. Walking on water is simply not possible without God. In fact, many things aren’t possible without God.

When Peter began to listen to the noise around him, he began to sink. It was more than the fact that he stopped focusing on God. He just could not shut up. While he may not have been literally been talking, the voices in his head allowed doubt to enter his mind and heart and change his direction. In this case, it was actually DOWN…he was sinking. However, when we shut out all the voices, the opinions, the advice and listen to what God is saying, our direction, our paths, remain straight.

God gave us his word to light our path.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:6

He said he goes before us and prepares the way.

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8

We can trust him to lead us and give us the best.

It’s really time to cut out the noise. I am a proponent for good, strong wisdom from friends and mentors. We need community to live our lives and we need input from others. However, sometimes we take that too far and instead of praying about it, searching His word or simply being still, and we just listen to everyone else. Well, everyone has an agenda. Other people do not see your entire future. We exist within space and time and a specific context. While advice and input is important we must keep our hearts focused on the one whose love is unconditional, who knows your days, and the number of hairs on your head. have you prayed about it as much as you’ve talked about it?

So, I am learning to just shut up…in all areas of my life…and trust that the next steps are His best for me.

Psalm 46:10 says that we need to be still and know that God is, well God.

Break the Walls Down

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And you got nowhere else to go
And you’re lost within your own home
And you’re trying so hard to win
You keep trying its embarrassing
And how you don’t even know
But you know you’re off the tracks
And how did you get in here
Thinking how did I get in here

I’ll help you break the walls down
I’ll help you break the walls down
And bust you out and take you home
Believe in me you are not alone
I’ll help you break the walls down

-The Rocket Summer, Walls

Brick by brick. Stone by stone.

With each broken promise, with every dream never realised, with each empty word falling flat, the walls were built.

With each slanderous word, with each whisper of gossip, with each backstabbing thought, the walls were built.

With each painful glance at the mirror, with each damaging thought, with each murmur of self-doubt, the walls were built.

With each break up, with each broken friendship, with each moment of abuse, the walls were built.

Brick by brick. Stone by stone.

The walls went up. and up. and up.

-mp. 2013

Your walls look different than mine. Mine may be brick, with graffiti and big windows. Yours may be concrete, scratched by years of pain or maybe wood, damaged by the rain of tears.

Walls are dangerous. While healthy boundaries force you to look up and keep you protected, walls keep you hidden, closed off and unable to grow.

A lot of the time our walls are invisible to us. The walls we have built are for protection against more pain (in whatever form). They keep the abuser at bay, they keep the potential of heartbreak from existing, they hold the world away.

These walls are usually not visible to others, in fact, often over compensation leads those around you to believe you are just fine. We act out in order to preserve our dignity; over compensate to hide the pain.

Admittedly I have built walls more than once in my life. Self-preservation yielded the need to hide, to run away, to close off so that as not to allow someone else to tell me that I wasn’t good enough…

I stopped writing, stopped singing, stopped being me because “me” wasn’t good enough.

Most recently I built up walls around my heart. My mom told me I am stand offish. I’m not even sure that’s a real word but apparently whenever she sees someone show interest I turn into stone.

What I thought was healed was merely mended. Although no longer in pain the next step, the one that would allow me to move on was to break down the walls.

For the former, breaking down the walls meant getting up in front of a whole lot of my friends who had never heard me sing and just belt it out at a friend’s wedding in France. It was there that I found the courage to break the walls down and believe that I was enough.

Now, for me, it’s vulnerability of the heart. In this case, when it comes to my heart, it means letting someone in again. It means even simply allowing myself to be myself with another person, to let him see me, to know me, to consider the possibility of more. It’s often a prayer, a cry out to God, going…protect me Lord, because I’m trying here…

The thing with walls is, that even if they were built because of something done to us, we choose to be victims and build the walls. Walls are built because we do not feel that we are enough. We may not feel that we can overcome the pain, the abuse, the heartache…whatever the case may be (and to varying degrees these things are not easy and may require, in some cases, professional assistance*), but they do take a first step of believing that we are good enough for a complete and fulfilled and whole life.

Understanding your value and knowing you are completely worthy of being whole is not easy. It requires acceptance of flaws, understanding that no one is perfect, and most importantly, I believe, the knowledge that you were created with a plan in mind. Intricately, fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Knowing that the King of Kings loves you and planned your very existence can help break those walls down.

He wants you to be whole, to live a full life, in relationship with Him and in healthy relationship with others.

go on, let Him break your walls down.


side note: if you or someone you know needs professional help please contact your local church or medical professional, or talk to a friend. We’re not in this life alone. x

A Lesson to my 18 year old self…

the past

author’s note: I wrote this a few weeks before I moved to Sweden. I didn’t share it then, but I thought why not? We can always learn from our past. 

I was 22 with a degree plus a bunch of other letters in front of my name…I packed my bags, booked a plane ticket and moved to England, alone. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, or what was next;  I only knew that I wanted out of Canada and that I liked the idea of being in PR. Admittedly I have spent a lot of the last seven years trying to figure this all out…

So here I am…a few years past 18… and my life just changed all over again…I cannot tell you what you should do for a living or who you should marry but I can tell you what I have learned…a girl, trying to be a good woman and trying to honour this life I have been given while I’m here…

1. Don’t expect the world to do anything for you…instead, expect to be the person who goes above and beyond.

You will stand out in whatever environment you are put in, whether it’s work, serving in church or living with your new housemates. When you choose to put in the extra bit of effort that will be seen. My boss was always amazed that I ask for reviews every 3-6 months; however I’m the only one in our team who has been promoted twice in three years. Go the extra mile and people will notice…

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

2. Don’t get expect to stay in the same job for the rest of your life…instead, be faithful in what you are doing, take opportunities and let that which gets you excited guide you.
I left my post-secondary education believing I was going to walk into my perfect PR job and just be fabulous. What a shock when 2 months into living in London I had already been a temp and started working back at Starbucks. It took four and a half years before I landed my PR role which I loved and which has formed the basis for my future studies and owning my own company. And you know what? All the skills big and small; from learning how to set up a phone system to taking up Dutch (temporarily) as another language, that I picked up working in other roles, were the very things that got me that job.
3. Don’t take yourself so seriously…instead, laugh at the awkward moments, understand your heart will heal and that who you are is far more important than what you do. 

I have to say I spent far too much of my 20s caring what others thought of my job, my looks, the boys I dated and where I was going to be in 30 years. Then one day I heard a very popular Christian folk singer from New Zealand talk about how God created me to show love and be loved and at that moment my life changed (albeit slowly and it was a process). It was easier to be generous with my time, my finances, my entire being. I could just be me and as I allowed myself to be comfortable in that I began to really become the woman God created me to be.\
4. Don’t live a mundane or mediocre existence…instead, live a life full of passion.
Whatever you love, go for it. Do everything you do like you only have today…because honestly, that’s all we’re promised. Love with all your heart. Eat well. Exercise with effort. If you love writing, write all the time. If you love coffee, become your own at home expert. People who live life with passion go far and are far more interesting than those who just get on with it… 

“So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15
 
And when life gets too hard, stop, breathe and thank God He gave you life…the life you’re living, your unique and perfect existence. Remember you can only make the impact that you can make. No one else can be you, so go out, be you in every way…

Inside the Frame

mise-en-scene.

It’s the term that describes how actors are framed within a scene. It is how the director places characters so the story is best told.

It’s a very French word for framing.

We all do it. When we take a photograph whether on film or digital. Whether you intend to print it and hang it on the wall or put it up on instagram, you frame the moment.  When taking the photo, you keep or take away that which you want to remember or forget.

We do that with life most of the time. We look at the moments framed by the present. We see the here and now and understand our past or future within that context. What is often forgotten, what is often left outside of the frame, is that the Author of our lives is outside of time.

This past week I had the absolute privilege of taking up 14 of our youth up to the mountains along with 3 of our other youth leaders. One night as we were getting everyone to bed I stopped in the hall to speak with one of the pastors leading the camp. She and I started talking and realised that we had a mutual friend, from Canada, in common. As we spoke, we found out that actually we have a couple of friends in common. I was so excited. First, having any connection to something from home but even more because it was an answer to a prayer from earlier in the evening.

You see, being in Sweden, is really not where I thought I would be. In fact, if I’m completely honest, which I try to be on here, I did not think (or rather I hoped) that I would not leave London single. Don’t get me wrong I have no inherent problem being single I just didn’t think that I would have to start again, “all alone”. I sat in our evening service and cried, trying to hide the tears as they fell with no control down my face. Part exhaustion, but mainly simply the feeling that I had been left all alone to start over again, in a country where I’m just beginning to speak the language, still having those moments where I laugh, simply because someone else is, and where I’m still adjusting to the differences in culture. Where, being a student again, I’m just not sure what is next. Of course I’m living life here as if I’m staying forever, but I don’t have a crystal ball and like anyone, it’s not always easy to know what that next step is going to be.

It was just a moment, and I stopped, prayed and just asked God, again, to give me a sign, a big one, to remind me of His goodness, His plans, His grace on my life.

And He did…in the form of one blonde, Swedish pastor.

You see, that meeting reminded me of what brought me to Sweden. Sure I went back to school to do my MSc. Practically, that brought me out here, but more than that I can see now that it was so much more. If I look back at the snap shots of life I look at moments I have framed individually in my mind.

1) I was 12 years old and I met LJ whose older sister KA would later become a dear friend and end up living in Stockholm.

2) My mom took me to “dinner in Sweden” one night when I was visiting her when she was living in Denmark.

3) Randomly meeting a guy from Gothenburg in London and learning to count from 1-10 in Swedish while trying to stay awake all night to catch our flights.

4) Connecting A into her first connect group in London and she eventually moved back to Stockholm and became part of our church here.

5) Moving to London and shortly after, meeting another A, who eventually moved back to Stockholm and is part of Hillsong here as well.

6) Meeting D on the Underground in London and then KA ending up in her connect group in Stockholm.

7) Coming to Stockholm from London, for work and realising how many people I knew already…

Seven simple and very brief snapshots of life. Individually, they mean nothing. They are simply pictures put in frames, memories, good times, moments left in the past.

But put pictures together and flip them really fast and what you get is a film.

There’s a theory in Film studies called the Auteur theory. It says that the film directly correlates to the author’s vision.

My life, your life, has an author. He began my story many many years ago. He wrote it perfectly and with such care to ensure every detail was carefully written out as to make the perfect life for you. Things are not always going to go perfectly and there may be a few extra shots in their that are not ideal, but the film has an ending and with Him all things are worked out for good.

I may not know how my film ends yet (and believe me, I am confident that there is still much more to be accomplished) but now, as I look back at the “dailies” of my life so far (that which has been already filmed), then I see that the Author of my life has a strong, firm vision and I can fully trust in it.

Trust in the Lord, with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding…Proverbs 3:5

trust

On Vulnerability

vulnerable

“I like you”

Those words can be the best or worst thing an unmarried  person has to hear or say.

In Sweden, as an egalitarian society, the concept of a girl asking a guy out is not unheard of. This turn of protocol is even familiar or dare I say normal. Showing that you are interested or declaring what you want, as a girl, here in Sweden is far more normal than other parts of the world (as far as my experience can permit me to declare).

Having been raised with the  completely opposite state of mind, with a strong sense of tradition and code that says the guy makes the first move, this entire revelation is not empowering but in fact the epitome of terrifying.

It requires vulnerability (and a decision to follow this social more of course)

To be vulnerable means to being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally: “we were in a vulnerable position”.

When you allow your heart to be open, to risk rejection you are vulnerable.

The idea that someone can hurt you, break your heart, reject you is one of the hardest concepts to swallow and that’s probably why a lot of us are single for a lot longer than we had hoped.

However, there is someone who will never reject you or break your heart or hurt you. He created you. He knows the hairs on your head. He knew you before you were in your mother’s womb. He knows the life He has for you. He is the Lord God.

He knows the moments He will need to pick you up shattered from a broken heart and the moments where He rejoices in Heaven with you as you make the decision to follow Him.

He knows your ups and downs, your ins and outs. He knows when you stand in front of the mirror and reject the beautiful person you are. He knows the moments you cry out to Him thankful for the life He has given for you. He knows it all.

He knows ALL of these things and He loves you.

So, then I ask myself and you…why is it so hard to be vulnerable with God?

Unlike that person that makes your heart skip, the one who, human like you, has the ability to hurt you, God loves us with a love unparalleled. He loves us so much our human hearts cannot fathom it.

Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:5
And so faith, hope, love abide [faith—conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope—joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love—true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love…That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it]; Ephesians 3:17 & 18

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. John 3:16

I was listening to a song by Ne-Yo “I will love you until you love yourself” and I thought that it was such a great representation of God’s love for us (warning: the video is NOT). He will love us no matter what. He loves us on the days we love Him and the days we push Him away. He loves us when we love ourselves and those we do not.

So then why do we find it so hard to be vulnerable in front of the ONE who no matter how hard He tries cannot not love us? Why do we find it so difficult to trust His plans for us?

Three Februaries ago I stood in Hillsong Church Stockholm visiting a friend from high school. I was here on business. One year ago I stood there with my ex after a weekend wedding of that same friend. And this past Sunday, I walked into my church, Hillsong Stockholm and went to my third Vision Sunday, not as a spectator or a guest here but as a leader and member of my church. My path to Stockholm has been a crazy one and simply unimaginable to think that when I stepped on a plane almost 8 years ago to move to England that my life would be here in Stockholm now. However, the thread that has been woven by my heavenly Father is one of love and kindness, of careful planning and purpose.

Looking back I was not always so vulnerable with God (and in particular areas I’m still not). I tried to make plans, to manipulate, to fall at His feet and cry out why? But yesterday, Vision Sunday, was a strong reminder and evidence of what happens when you allow yourself to be vulnerable to the one who created it all.

As for the boy…jury is out. I’m still not sure I can be the one to make a move, but I know that my heavenly father has my heart in His hands and my life will be alright and for that…I am truly thankful.

my peace I give you