It’s a YES from me!

Hi friends, 

I read this quote recently, ‘put your YES on the table and let God put it on the map.’

I immediately thought of two significant YES moments.

The obvious being YES to Canada seven and a half years ago;  then there was this moment.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

I’m 22 years old, sitting under the African sun, the air is smoky as fires crackle outside homes along the roadside. I’m writing, not only saying yes to God, but to a place. To a mission and a lifelong love of a ministry. I remember wanting to go Africa the day I said yes to Jesus, anywhere in Africa! I’d tried to get there through various charities but it didn’t happen immediately. A ‘yes’ doesn’t mean we click our fingers and it happens. A few years later I went with a good friend to Living Waters to Mwanza, Tanzania. I remember more than one person saying to me ‘how do you think those poor Africans feel, you white people coming and going.’

Fair question?

Back to my journalling. I’m 22. I’m saying yes and ‘Lord, can my yes stay here, not necessarily live here, but commit to this group of people?’

And now 23 journals later, I am still staying yes, to the same place and people. My yes joined the unwavering yes of the ‘good friend’ I traveled with – oh and we’ve been married 19 years, he’s a veryyyyy good friend.

When my 14 year old Bella sent me a photo of her first African sunset over Lake Victoria a few weeks ago…

IMG_9741

…my heart beat faster, as it does when Emily’s eyes light up when she talks about Mwanza. Then came more pictures, and videos of laughter,  of movie nights and colouring and games with the children (we like to call it family night) and then the pics of helping in school, teaching ABC’s and 123’s.

Phil was able to spend quality time with Living Water’s staff, teachers and friends, looking into familiar faces and smiles, of newly weds or of new parents or into the eyes of those heavy with grief. 

To find a charity, a tribe, a ministry, a community you can invest in outside of your own comfortable world, whether one mile or ten thousand away – this is Jesus living, the way of the kingdom. For us it’s a blessing to board four flights and travel across the world to be with family. We love our Living Waters family – Carolyn, Agricola, Happiness, Lillian, Goodluck, Baby Agnes, Joyce, Doris, Fred and many, many more! 

You might remember a trip I took three years ago – I wrote about it, here and here  (this one was my favourite)  A friend on our team, Cathleen who lives in Kelowna, said YES too – to something she had no experience of, yet felt a call and passion to run with.

The dream to build a secondary school!

Three years later Phil and Bella were able to see Living Waters Secondary school close to completion. An inspiring, innovative project built from shipping containers! WOW! Follow the journey of the school here.

What are you saying YES to today that will live longer than you?

Have a great weekend,

Love, Michelle xo

P.S.  Thank you Carolyn for saying YES in the beginning!

 

Advertisements

Dancing in the Cool Breeze

Hello!

IMG_9586

Aren’t we all feeling a little more Spring like today?  It’s Spring Break over here and Phil and Bella are home from a beautiful time in  Mwanza. I look forward to filling you in on their trip – that’s my next post….in fact I have many blog posts running around in my head and I’m hoping they’ll land into some coherent words soon. If not then thanks for your grace. Creativity has taken a leave of absence but I’m hoping its return is imminent.

Meanwhile.

I recently read ‘God sets the lonely in families.’ I realize this is more than being alone, a state of being, in fact, being alone can be a gift (INFJ here) This is different, lonely is the emotion brought on by feelings of separation. Loneliness can be devastating, a riot in the brain that brings feelings of being uncared for, not celebrated, unloved.

Let’s backtrack to when loneliness entered – God created Adam and Eve and walked in the cool of the day with them. They were created for His presence, but as we know, sin entered the world and separated us from God. Shame, nakedness and loneliness penetrated the heart and we’ve struggled with this ever since, affecting many of our choices. Hurt and pain can isolate us, as we hide within the fear of rejection and misunderstanding. We deny ourselves grace and we make unhealthy comparisons. All enhancing loneliness on an island of echoes.

Good news.  

Loneliness does not exist within the trinity – God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in an adoring relationship. One does not function without the other. God is not alone and God is not lonely. The trinity exalts one another, communing and honoring. It’s a sublime dance. Or as C.S. Lewis put it, ‘in Christianity God is not a static thing… but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you would not think me irreverent, a kind of dance.’

Love cannot work alone. Could it be that we can fight loneliness with this understanding of the trinity?

Acts 3:19 tells us that, ‘upon repentance (of changing our mind, turning away) times of refreshing will stream from the Lord’s presence.’ These times of refreshing hints of that time when God walked with Adam in the cool breeze of the day. The work of the cross begins the restoration of paradise within the hearts of Christ’s followers. The garden of our hearts overlaps with the garden of God, and we can walk with him in the garden once more.

Let’s grasp this truth and let’s attempt the outworking of the dance… exalting, honoring, and working together and ‘as we limp toward transparency and community and friendship with our own fears and insecurities, we recognize that we aren’t alone. When we see that we are not alone, we can reach out to one another.’ Anne Voskamp.

Lord,

Help me to be aware that you are with me in every moment.

Help me grasp the truth that you desire to walk with me in the cool of the day.

In the valley and mountain. The confusion and fear. The celebration and hope.

Lord, every moment.

Amen.

We were never meant to be alone – we were created to enter into the divine dance.

Love, Michelle xo

…and Happy Mother’s Day Mom – you dance well.  

Dad

IMG_1440

My Dad lay in deepest of sleeps, his breath rattling loose around his fragile frame. He was leaving us, departing this momentary world. Many of those around his bed had been allowed their moment and I waited quietly for mine. Even with ten of us around his bedside My Heavenly Father graced me my space. As I looked up to an empty room tangible peace invaded my being.

Just my Dad and me.
I looked down at his hands, one hand held a wooden prayer cross and I wrapped his other around mine.
I wanted to hold his hand as he was ushered in.
That smooth, familiar hand.
That had steered the truck to support our family.
That had betrayed…defended.
That held back screaming fans in the 60s at the packed town hall.
That had given out aid in Croatia.
The hand that had surrendered to God.
The miracle of his surrender made the redemption of God all the more glorious. We all remember that miracle – when God broke into the chaos, pouring rivers of living water and drowning dysfunction. And wherever the river flowed, transformation happened.
…I said all I had to say; my throat squeezed tight, words finally filling my voiceless pain. He heard me, his frail, cancer consumed body slowly departing, but he heard me – healing tears rolled down his cheeks and mine.
‘Well done Dad, well done.’
Family gathered close again, holding hands tight and every second dear.
Sounds never heard before, emotions never experienced.
Then…a glorious February sunlight shone through the hospice window, a new light.

Remembering you today Dad, with Beatles songs and stories and I’m so thankful to our Saviour,
Love, Shell x

I pray for those of you in the unending shadows, that you will not be overcome by fear.
I pray that you will be reassured that He is with you in those moments and that He is near with protection and guidance.
I pray that you will know His comfort, His presence, His peace – always.

You are loved.

Please don’t hug me (your way)

 

IMG_1612

Dear Church,

I enjoyed your service this week, thank you so much for the welcome.

You need to know it’s a big deal for anyone walking into a church for the first time – some more than others. So, I just wanted to point out a few things that might help you in understanding some of us who walk through your big glass doors.

Firstly, I realize why hugging is really important. You’re excitedly declaring ‘Welcome, come and be part of our church family.’

But you need to know…I can’t hug. Your way.

Touch repulses me, if you try and hug me my skin crawls, I actually want to vomit and my whole state becomes unbalanced. (You might want to Google sensory processing issues to understand more)

So, just for future reference, try not to presume everyone you meet is a hugger. When you get to know me well, I’ll show you my sign for hugging. And we can do that as I walk into the foyer rather than…well…what happened.

I really understand that eye contact is important; you show you are listening – you are giving your attention to me and no one else. The problem is, I can’t give you eye contact because my eyes sting and it feels like tiny hot needles are poking me. But please don’t think I’m being rude. I’m happy that you talking to me, I just don’t like you looking into my eyes. Into me.

Oh and finally, I know I got up and down a lot in the service. It’s not that I don’t like being there or I’m struggling with the message or I’m demonised! Restlessness is a side effect of the medication I’m taking, so, I get up and wander around until I settle. Easy? Sort of, depending the volume of the music is and how bright the lights are. It can be tiring being me sometimes.

Thanks for reading  – I will come back next week. I know it’s about us understanding each other and I know you have a lot of stuff going on that no one knows about. I can see that in you, really see it, it’s just that my stuff is more obvious…

I’ll close with my life verse from Psalm 139 that I love to encourage people with.

I will offer You my grateful heart,

for I am Your unique creation,

filled with wonder and awe.

You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;

Your works are wonderful;

I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.

I believe this. Do you?

Regards,

Hannah.

P.S. I also have Aspergers.  I forget mention it sometimes…

A Week in the Life of…

 

 

IMG_3315

We all have those fears that travel down the road of morbid forebodings, mine often dance darkly around car accidents. So when I received a call last week from my firstborn screaming that she had been in a car accident it would seem that what I feared most had come upon me. And then to be first on the scene and responsible for calling the emergency services.My mind quickly raced to my own accident when I was 17 in my little yellow mini, as I heard the same words ‘girls you were fortunate to walk out of this…’

All that to say I am SO thankful to God, for peace over the could’ve been, for angels and for praying friends and family.

And what I’ve learned again that even in my most feared situations there He is in the midst. The promise of God for ALL of us ‘Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness, I am not overcome by fear, Because You are with me in those dark moments, near with Your protection and guidance, I am comforted (Psalm 23 Voice)

There is one author of morbid forebodings. 

And One ever present in the reality of pain and difficulty.

This weekend I chatted a guy who found a beautiful salvation through Teen Challenge. I talked with a Mexican man who after being in Canada for two days, was on the number 10 bus and saw a service was on at Willow Park church, got off the bus and came in. The first people he met were Spanish speaking, naturally, because God loves detail. This man soon found himself wrapped up in the love of His heavenly Father and declared ‘this is my church.’ I found myself surrounded with many cheering that our Permanent Resident status is granted (thank you Canada) I spoke with friends who had been to the accident spot to give thanks to God for protection. We saw healings as those who attended Azusa Now shared stories of the event, years of pain subsiding, back pain eased, sensitivity to sound and light gone. FOR REAL.

I found myself surrounded with many cheering that our Permanent Resident status is granted (thank you Canada)

I spoke with friends who had been to the accident spot to give thanks to God for protection. We saw healings as those who attended Azusa Now shared stories of the event, years of pain subsiding, back pain eased, sensitivity to sound and light gone. FOR REAL.

We saw healings as those who attended Azusa Now shared stories of the event, years of pain subsiding, back pain eased, sensitivity to sound and light gone. FOR REAL.

And.

I looked into eyes of desperation and saw hope deferred making sick hearts cry for help.

I was reminded to consider it all joy whatever I face and to be content, to turn my eyes upon Jesus look full in his wonderful face.

As we head into a new week I pray that you know love and grace poured into your soul,  that you know peace in the midst and his presence in every hidden space of your life.

Love, Michelle xo

P.S. Happy Birthday Mom. We love you! xx

Matt’s story: ‘Your prayer has been heard’

IMG_0776Family

IMG_0777

About my little bro Matt…

He was 19 when he was diagnosed with paranoid Schizophrenia. For those who have known this illness, you know it’s not a quick visit to your local GP and an off the bat diagnosis. No, this came following years of pain, torment, violence, and imprisonment.

We were told these words. ‘Prepare yourselves for him to be institutionalized for the rest of his life’.

The 23 years that have followed have been both stable and tumultuous. As pray-ers we’ve wrestled with how to pray, with the dark feel of mental illness, the spiritual influence that accompanies, and the voices that have called us out.

We have seen God answer many prayers. We’ve fasted; we’ve travailed and cried as the pain of unanswered prayer pushes us to breakthrough for his life. When the time came for hi-security rehab for a while, we prayed and he received the best care. When certain medical intervention was/is needed we pray. When wisdom is needed over meds we pray. We refused to believe what had been spoken and saw the dedication of faithful people praying God’s word. All wrapped in the beauty of a Mom and Dad pouring out unconditional love.

Why do I tell you this? I love to tell God stories. He’s a good, good Father… Love this song. On repeat.

Matt knows God’s love and forgiveness. He has broken free from many addictions. He’s realized the dark influence of occult practices and disposed of anything attached to it. A good friend has been and prayed through his apartment, yes, Matt’s apartment – because he lives independently now. Shopping, cooking, paying his bills. Matt’s an encourager, he has the gift of generosity, he’s a great Dad. He’s currently serving at our old church in Stourbridge – Chawn Hill. Helping to cook meals at Alpha and helping with the Diners club – where a group of guys cook a meal and eat together. There’s the table again.

I tell a snippet of Matt’s story to encourage praying parents, siblings and carers and of course those who are affected by mental illness. Please understand I am not making light of a desperate situation by suggesting a quick fix prayer. I understand the depth of pain. What I do know is that God hears your prayers, every one of them, spoken and not. He sees your desperation. God is committed to answer your prayers. He is committed to show you His heart, He is for you. Remind Him of His promises, stop and listen to Him – He is faithful.

For the moments when you ask why.  The real Jesus turns to our questions of why, why this sickness, who is to blame — and he says it like a caress to the aching,“You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.” (John 9:3 MSG)… “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:5 NLT). Anne Voskamp.

…and if you’ve run out of faith and hope – tell God that too and find a community who will support you. He gives strength to the weary. When the angel spoke to Zechariah he said ‘Do not be afraid; your prayer has been heardLuke 1:13 If you study this word it actually means ‘the prayers that you no longer pray have been heard’. I love that.

Prayer changes things. Answers to prayer reveal God’s love.

Matt’s life is a beautiful testimony of this.

And we are thankful.

Jesus: ‘Remember, what is humanly impossible is possible with God.’ Luke 18:27

‘I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?’ Jeremiah 32:27 

‘For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Eternal, “plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope—never forget that.’Jeremiah 29:11

‘The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Love, Michelle x

(Written with permission – thanks lil’ bro)

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

Remembrance Day.

Poppies on the Somme

Many of us hold memories of family members involved in war. Stories of loss, pain, stories in the eyes of loved ones that were never told, then for us in more recent years, a lovely friend.

My Great Grandad Bert died from wounds in Flanders, Great Grandad Charlie, I remember him as the gentlest soul, held medals of bravery from WW1. Great Uncle Cyril was in Italy – an unforgettable character as any of my friends who met him know! My Grandad Bill was posted in the Sahara on tank recovery.

IMG_3517Grandad Bill.

IMG_3519His recovery truck.

And in Upton on Severn my Great Uncle John Herman is remembered.

Names_on_Upton-upon-Severn's_Memorial_Hall_-_geograph.org.uk_-_928237

The red-flowered corn poppy became the symbol of wartime remembrance for the First World War – being immortalised by John McCrae, the Canadian Surgeon and Soldier, in his famous poem of 1915  “In Flanders Fields”.

Nature reminding us each year to remember all who have suffered through war, those who have gone and their relatives, the injured and those around the world who continue to fight and suffer. The least we can do is wear the poppy and hold the silence, we never underestimate your pain and honor you.

James McConnell was an American pilot who had volunteered to fight in the war and was flying with the French Escadrille Lafayette. He recorded a vivid description of the destroyed landscape below him as he flew over the 1916 battlefield of Verdun. He describes the front line as a brown belt, a strip of murdered Nature “Immediately east and north of Verdun there lies a broad, brown band … Peaceful fields and farms and villages adorned that landscape a few months ago – when there was no Battle of Verdun. Now there is only that sinister brown belt, a strip of murdered Nature. it seems to belong to another world. Every sign of humanity has been swept away. The woods and roads have vanished like chalk wiped from a blackboard; of the villages nothing remains but gray smears where stone walls have tumbled together… On the brown band the indentations are so closely interlocked that they blend into a confused mass of troubled earth. Of the trenches only broken, half-obliterated links are visible.”

However, sometimes the sights and sounds of nature could be seen and heard through the fog of battle. Soldiers spoke of how birds, and most particularly the lark, could be heard twittering high in the sky even during the fury of an artillery bombardment. Quoted from James McConnell, Flying for France, New York, 1916. McConnell was killed in March 1917 when he was shot down.

Dusty recesses keep providing us with historical records bringing back the toils of those times; in 2009 one of the oldest surviving First World War poppies – plucked from the killing fields of Flanders in 1915 – has been found in the diary of a former soldier. Len Smith was 24 when he picked the delicate flower from the ground in no man’s land while serving with the 7th City of London Regiment in Belgium.  Mr Smith, a sniper and battlefield artist, pressed the poppy in his diary for safe keeping – perfectly preserved for over 90 years.

We preserve our memories holding our loved ones dear.

Remembering today… preserving our memories, praying for those who still find their hearts in that desolate place, the place of troubled earth.

I pray that in that desert you will hear a new song.

Love, Michelle x