2014 – The best year yet

I have lived the vast majority of my life in fear.

Fear of failure.

Fear of getting it wrong.

Fear it won’t be perfect.

Fear of disappointing someone.

Fear of offending someone.

Fear of conflict.

Fear of never being good enough.

Fear of not having enough.

Fear of not having control.

I could go on, and on, and on, but I think you get the idea.

It’s taken me until I’m 37.5 years old to truly realise that every area of my life has been shrouded in this cloak of heaviness, greyness, despair and hopelessness, to varying degrees, just subtle enough for me to not really recognise it for what it was.

But now, this year ahead, and for as long as I have left here on this earth?  No more.

No more letting fear stop me from doing what I was created to do, distracting me from my purpose and convincing me that I’m not enough.

I’m not under any illusion that there won’t be times when I will be afraid, but I don’t have to make choices out of fear.  I’ve known this intellectually for a long time, but it’s only now that that head knowledge has filtered down into my heart and soul.

And it comes from knowing that I am loved.  Wholly, truly, completely, wildly and unashamedly loved.

It’s time to start living in the truth, and not in fear.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  – Marianne Williamson

One of the biggest frustrations I’ve had with myself in my life is my lack of discipline and following through with goals I’ve set and intentions I’ve had. Virtually every time I’ve failed at something, it’s been because I’ve given up when it got too hard.  My inner spoiled brat would throw a tantrum and whine and cry and I’d give in and give up.  Funny, I don’t do that with my own kids, and yet my inner brat gets the better of me nearly every time.

Baby’s now being put in the corner.

2013 ended on a great note in regards to goal-setting and achieving, in that I completed my first Whole 30 program, and completed a 6.8km local fun run (the longest distance I’ve ever run).  It took me four goes to stick to and complete the Whole 30, and there were so many times I wanted to give up during training for the fun run.  But I didn’t, and that sense of achievement that came from following through on both goals was amazing.

So I’m taking that into 2014 with a new mindset –  a very intentional one, as I know that long held self-beliefs and habits and ways of doing things take time to change.  But the old has gone, and the new has come, and I’m choosing new.

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Paul Colman live at the end of 2012, where he sang a beautiful Irish ‘drinking song’ that he had written, ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’.  It’s become one of my theme songs for 2014, I’m saying ‘here’s to the failures we’re leaving behind, cheers to the future, ’cause it’s just begun, and the best is yet to come’.

Tell me, what is going to make 201 your best year yet?

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Day 31: In the end, and for now

This life we live?  This crazy beautiful, heartbreaking, wondrous life?  It does all have a purpose, despite that feeling of wandering lost in the wilderness at times.  Often, if you’re anything like me.

But one day, one day, it will all make sense.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13: 11-12)

Right now, we think and see and live with earthly-based minds, because that’s where we are – in the here and now, down on this earth.  But on that day, that glorious day, when life and love all comes to completion in the heavens , and we come face-to-face with the One who loves us more than we can possibly fathom, everything will fall in to place, and we won’t be left wandering or wondering anymore.

For today, tomorrow, and all the days to come we have to live out here on earth, in amongst the people we love and don’t-love-yet, we have a job to do, a direction to follow that has been given to us so clearly, there cannot be any doubt.

We are to love.

Actively.

Every. Single. Day.

Even when it’s hard.

Even when it’s really hard.

Even when it feels like we need to turn ourselves inside out just to summon up one skerrick of love-as-God-tells-us.

This is who we are created to be, this is how God intended for us to live amongst each other.  And He sent His precious son Jesus to teach us this.  Even though the teaching involved pain beyond anything we can imagine.

This is why love is the biggest, the most, the greatest.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (1 Corinthian 13: 13, The Message)

Trust steadily.

Hope unswervingly.

Love extravagantly.

Right now, in my tired, worn out state, I can barely even begin to fathom what it takes to love extravagantly – what comes to mind is that it means to love like God.  To love each other like God loves us.

Without fear.

Without anger.

With hope, and patience, and endurance.

Writing about love, real love for 31 days has shown me that there is so much I have to learn, to discover, to embrace, I feel like I’ve only skimmed my fingertips across the surface of the His truth, of what it is He wants us to know and to breathe deep.

Love is the greatest.

Day 30: Love wins. Every time.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, The Message)

Love never fails.

Not now, not ever.

In the end, when this world as we know it is gone and we are living in the heavenly realms with the One who is love, it is love that will endure, not any spiritual giftings or anything else.

But for now, it is love that keeps going, love that never gives up, never gives in, never fails us.

When we choose to love, we are choosing victory and triumph over despair and hopelessness.  I know this, because I chose love, even when it seemed impossible, and He who is love defined made the way for the impossible to become so very real.

My husband and I are living proof that love never dies, love always wins, despite how things may appear at times.  Love changes, yes, and there are peaks and troughs and ebbs and flows, but it is always living and breathing within us.  And that’s because God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4: 16).

I’ll leave you with this song that speaks so beautifully of this truth – love never fails, God never fails, even when we do.

Day 25: Love finds goodness.

‘Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth’ (1 Corinthians 13:6 – NIV)

I have to admit, I struggled with this verse when I was fleshing it out, trying to put into words what it means.  All I could think was that true love looks past the faults of the people we love, and looks for the goodness in them.

It’s taken me this long to think of It (duh), but I remembered that there have been great scholars who have delved deep, deep, deep into God’s words to help us understand them.  Matthew Henry has this to say about the verse:

The matter of its joy and pleasure is here suggested: 1. Negatively: It rejoiceth not in iniquity. It takes no pleasure in doing injury or hurt to any. It thinks not evil of any, without very clear proof. It wishes ill to none, much less will it hurt or wrong any, and least of all make this matter of its delight, rejoice in doing harm and mischief. Nor will it rejoice at the faults and failings of others, and triumph over them, either out of pride or ill-will, because it will set off its own excellences or gratify its spite. The sins of others are rather the grief of a charitable spirit than its sport or delight; they will touch it to the quick, and stir all its compassion, but give it no entertainment. It is the very height of malice to take pleasure in the misery of a fellow-creature. And is not falling into sin the greatest calamity that can befal one? How inconsistent is it with Christian charity, to rejoice at such fall!

2. Affirmatively: It rejoiceth in the truth, is glad of the success of the gospel, commonly called the truth, by way of emphasis, in the New Testament; and rejoices to see men moulded into an evangelical temper by it, and made good. It takes no pleasure in their sins, but is highly delighted to see them do well, to approve themselves men of probity and integrity. It gives it much satisfaction to see truth and justice prevail among men, innocency cleared, and mutual faith and trust established, and to see piety and true religion flourish.

Turns out I wasn’t too far off the mark in my understanding.

Look past the faults of those we love.

Don’t revel in their failings.

Delight in their strengths and goodness.

Love truth and justice.

Find the goodness and ignore everything else.

 

Day 24: Love doesn’t keep score

Forgiveness

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We’re at the end of 1 Corinthians 13:5 – “Love……..it keeps no records of wrongs’ (NIV).

‘Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others’ (Msg)

Holding a grudge.

Tit for tat.

One-upmanship.

In short, unforgiveness.

This is what love doesn’t do.

It is very easy to hold a grudge against someone, to not forget when they hurt us, or do the wrong thing by us.  We are wronged by people every single day.  Usually by more than one person.  If you think about it, that’s a lot to hold on to.  And keep track of.  And think about what they should do to make it up to us.

Love doesn’t do that.

Love doesn’t hold a grudge.

Love doesn’t keep record of how people hurt us.

Love forgives.

Plain and simple.

I love this. I have forgiven those who did me wrong and have chosen to not have a hateful attitude to them. I pray for them daily and hope one day maybe we can be friends again

via pinterest

I can’t cover forgiveness in one topic, but the best explanation I’ve heard of forgiveness isn’t saying to someone ‘it’s ok’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’, it’s saying ‘you don’t owe me anything anymore’.  It’s saying to the other person ‘yes, you hurt me, but you don’t need to make up for it, I release you of any obligation’.  It’s not just forgetting what happened, and it doesn’t mean that work doesn’t have to be done to repair the damage in a relationship, but it’s letting go of a continual expectation on someone that they have to ‘pay’ for what they’ve done.

Forgiveness

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And if you’re keeping score, holding things against people for how they’ve hurt you, and expecting them to ‘pay’ for it, you can guarantee that there are a whole lot of people out there thinking the same of you.  How much easier would it be to just let it all go?  To just drop what we’re carrying, because really, carrying stuff around is really hard work – emotionally as well as physically.  I once heard Dr Phil say that carrying emotional baggage is like having a pair of suitcases that you carry around with you all the time, constantly following you from place to place and they get really heavy.

Forgiveness

via pinterest

How much easier would it be to put the suitcases of unforgiveness down and just walk away?

In the Lords’ prayer Jesus says we are to ask God to ‘forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us’.

Forgiveness is a directive from God.

Forgiveness is one of the foundations of our faith.

We are created in the image of God, and we are to live like Jesus.  The cornerstone of our salvation is that Christ forgives us for our sins, so if we are created to be like Him, that means we have to forgive those who sin against us, who wrong us, who hurt us.

Forgiveness

  via pinterest

This life of real love is not an easy one, and unforgiveness is one of the main barriers we come up against in our relationships.

Forgive someone, and the walls come down.

Put your pride aside, turn away from your self-righteousness and sense of entitlement, and just let go.

It’s what God does for us (without the pride and self-righteousness).  He just lets go of everything we do that hurts him, and because of that, we know true love.

Day 15: The story of us (Part 5)

It took 3 years after we separated, a year after we were divorced, for us to start talking to each other again.  Oh, we’d had some conversations during that time, over the phone – once we’d started court proceedings in the early days, we didn’t see each other in person.  It was just too hard, and never ended well.  We had a few phone conversations, but primarily any communication was via my mother-in-law, or brief notes.

A few times, I had asked my husband through his mum if he wanted to start meeting face-to-face when we dropped the kids off and picked them up, but he wasn’t ready.  And in hindsight, I probably wasn’t really, either.  Throughout this whole time, I thought I was coping with everything fine, that I had ‘gotten over’ our marriage breakdown and was looking ahead to all the possibilities life had to offer.  I certainly wasn’t living in regret and wallowing in self-pity – I was studying for my nursing degree, I had (and still have) a wonderful new family within my church and was loving the discovery of living life in Christ, I started running and had a great social life.  For the first year after we separated, I went to counselling regularly and that was a huge help in learning how to live life day-to-day in the aftermath of the death of a marriage.

But there was always something missing, and for the longest time, I couldn’t work out what it was.  Not in my head, anyway, but deep within, I knew what it was.  I just chose to ignore it completely.  He was missing, my husband, my love, the boy I knew I was going to marry even before we began.  The part of my life that had grown to envelop him and his love for so many years was empty, a ragged, gaping wound.  And I just ignored it, as much as I could.  I thought it was easier to just pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, to fill it up with other things and to believe that a new relationship would make everything better, would make me whole again.

Not quite.

In fact, not at all.  God wouldn’t let me ignore how I felt, wouldn’t let me pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, and slowly, over time, He led me into that space I kept trying to run away from and taught me how to just sit there and let Him love me in that place.  And to do that, He started by bringing my husband and I back together, in the most uneventful of circumstances.

My mother-in-law was going to be away for a few weeks, and there wasn’t anyone else who could facilitate the kids going between our homes, so the time had come where it was up to us to start making it work.  And to put it simply, it did.  3 years of being apart had given us the time and space – and grace – for the rawness of our wounds and hurts to settle, to start to heal, and we were able to feel safe with each other again.  We started by meeting in a carpark and then at his mum and dad’s house, and I smile now at thinking how polite we were with each other.  From the first time we met with the kids, I felt such peace and a very real sense of God’s presence, and I knew that it was His perfect timing.

And I knew that I still loved him.  That I had never stopped loving him, as much as I’d tried to convince myself that I had.  I perhaps didn’t love him as I did when we were married, but that deep, true, forever love was still there, and I only wanted to see the best things in life happen for him.  Which, to my mind, included him meeting someone new and forming a new relationship, because he deserved that.  Just like I did.  I fully believed that we would both be happy in new relationships, and that we were in a place where we’d each be ok with that happening for the other.

See, I had it all planned out, because I thought I knew what would be the best thing for all of us.  And really, it’s easier to start again with something new than to repair something that’s broken, isn’t it?  Isn’t that what our throwaway culture tells us?  Don’t worry if it’s broken, you can always get something shiny and new?  It’s what I saw in broken marriages and relationships all around me – broken hearts trying to find healing and wholeness in something new, in someone new.  It’s what had happened for my parents after they divorced, in that they both remarried. I thought that’s what you did after a divorce.

I saw new relationships and new marriages after divorce everywhere I looked.  I didn’t see people holding onto hope for their marriage to be repaired after its’ destruction.

I didn’t see anyone believing that people can change, that what is broken can be made new.

I didn’t see people living the reality of love – myself included.

I didn’t see people fighting to hold onto what they once declared they were to committed to.

I didn’t see ‘for better or for worse’ being lived out in all its’ brutal reality.

I didn’t see people saying ‘This was my fault, too, and I know I need to change’.

And yet I still saw the beauty of love being lived real in the marriages of my friends and family who got it.  Who knew that marriage was a lifetime deal, through everything that life threw at them, and that you don’t give up on your marriage or your spouse just because of how you feel.

Who knew that love isn’t a feeling, but it’s a verb, an action, a choice you make every single day.

Who were living love and marriage as God created it, a promise and a covenant that binds hearts and lives together forever.

That is where my hope came from, where the glimmer of possibility started to emerge.  Not just in the words I read in scripture, not from something someone tried to tell me, but by seeing love and marriage lived for real.  The good, the bad, and the ugly, the easy and the hard, the joy and the sorrow.

As my husband and I got to know each other again, I became more sensitive to everything related to love and marriage around me.  it was like my senses were heightened to everything I wanted to know, I was hungry for information and examples of how to love someone, how marriage works, how you keep your commitment of ’till death do us part’.  And yet I still didn’t believe that I’d need any of that for my husband and I, that we were still destined to be married to other people.  Yes, I know, you can say it – I was a slow learner.  Which was ok, because God is infinitely patient.

But at the same time, my senses became more attuned to the hurt and wounding that happens in marriage, and it was through this time that I developed a heart for seeing marriages not just work, but thrive.  I have often said that I’ve learnt everything I know now about marriage from being divorced, and I am very grateful for the lessons along the way (although you wouldn’t have heard me saying that at the time!!!).

So my husband and I continued to get to know each other again, and slowly and cautiously started to believe that we could actually make this work, that any part of life we created to work together in wouldn’t collapse around us again.  And it was in taking this risk, in having to trust God completely that I started to learn about real love, about living out love for real every day.  He was making something new, bringing out beauty from the rubble and ashes, and creating new life in us.

It was only the beginning, and we were in for the ride of our lives.

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

The story of us (Part 3)

The story of us (Part 4)

Trust and hope and perseverance (Part 1)

Day 14: Love does not envy

comparison

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‘Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have’ (The Message)

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this every day.  For me, it’s not about things, objects, ‘stuff’, but more about ability, as such.

I wish I could write better (or as well as her, or that blogger, or that author).

I wish I naturally had more patience (like that mum I know who I’ve never heard raise her voice at her kids and never seems to get frustrated with her family).

I wish I was more disciplined by nature (like my friend who is always so organised and has everything under control and exercises every day and only cooks gluten free….).

I wish I had more confidence in my opinions and expressing them (like so many people I know who are so sure of what they say).

I wish I felt assured that I am enough, and I don’t need to keep trying to be more (like so many women I know in real life and online whom I admire).

Before my husband and I came back together again, I so desperately, desperately wanted to be in a relationship, just like the majority of my friends and people I knew – even though I knew their relationships were far from perfect.

I wish, I wish, I wish……..

I can get so caught up wishing for things I don’t have (or think I don’t have – it’s all about perception), that I lose sight of what I do have.

At the absolute basic level of life, I wake up breathing every day, I have a roof over my head, food on my plate several times a day and people who love me.  Everything else is gravy.

I have the ability and the opportunity to write every day, because I was born into a world that values education and literacy, and encouraging creativity.  I write because it is how God has created me, and I’ve been able to realise that.

Whenever I’m impatient in life, with anything, it gives me the opportunity to practice grace – with myself, with other people, with whatever situation I’m in.  If I’m cross with the kids or frustrated with my husband, it’s because they’re in my life, and I love them.  Because we are all human beings, we are imperfect, and we all rub each other up the wrong way at times – if we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t become impatient and cross and frustrated.  So I’ll take impatience over nothing any day.

I may not be as disciplined as I *think* I should be, but I am plenty organised enough to provide my family with what they need, to perform in my job effectively and efficiently, and to know how to take care of myself.

When I am sure of what I know and what I believe, I have no fear in speaking it out, and am learning to stand in the courage of my convictions, even when they fly in the face of what the world around me thinks.  I’m learning that whatever we think or do or say, if we do and say it with love and kindness and respect, and without judgement, it is heard and received as it’s intended.  I still have the element of ‘what will they think of me?’, but I am learning to counter that instead with ‘what does God think of me?’, to live with the power and courage that the Spirit gives us .  It’s working.

I was created in the image of God, and He has claimed me as His own.  I am enough for Him, so how can I not believe that I am enough? Being anything more or less than who I already am will not make Jesus love me any more or any less, He loves me just as I am.

And for the whole time I was praying and hoping and despairing and crying over the desire for a new relationship, God was working in me – breaking me, moulding me, reshaping me into being more like Him (I’m still a long, long way away from that).  Without that experience, I would not be who I am now, and my husband and I wouldn’t be together again.

Strong’s Concordance gives the translation of ‘envieth’ (as in the KJV) as ‘to have warmth of feeling for or against: – affect, covet (earnestly), (have) desire, (move with) envy, be jealous over, (be) zealous, zealously affect’. Love doesn’t feel these things, doesn’t behave this way – we do, because of our humanness, but we can choose not to, when we choose love, when we choose to live like Christ, and not give in to our self.  Believe me, I know that that is far easier said than done, and it’s something I have to be conscious of and work on every single day.

God gives us every single thing we need, even if it’s not what we think.  He knows what we need – not want, but need – more than what we do.  Wanting something else takes our attention away from what we already have.  Envy steals faith.  Jealousy binds up our hearts with bitterness and the desire for what we don’t have.

But when we love, when we choose faith and trust over envy and jealousy, we see what we have, the blessings before us that God has showered on us with abundance.  Which He does because He loves us more than we could ever fathom.

What is your ‘weak point’ when it comes to envy and jealousy?  How do you counter that, and try not to let it affect how you live?