Diamonds.

Day 25.

Rose of Sharon

It was a year ago today that my Nanny Rose passed away; it’s at times like this I’d love to be with my family, remembering our Rosie and keeping her memory alive.

So last week when I asked my Mom to consider writing some thoughts for my blog, I wasn’t really thinking about the timing of it, and it falls on today and that’s good, you know? Many of you know my Mom, for those who don’t, you can meet her here. Anyone who has met her in person remembers her, that’s for sure…

I asked Mom to share a few thoughts on finding God in difficult times.

‘…So when Shell asked me to write something I thought, ‘not this week’. Then I thought ‘why not this week’? Why not share with others how God is in the midst of our dark places. And how he shows us those diamonds in the dust. How those rainbows appear just at the right time. And how we can cartwheel with joy.

I call them diamonds – that comfort, peace and love which God brings in the midst of the most painful of times. I have seen them repeatedly for many years and will share a few with you.

Starting with the most poignant.

I knew that I needed to go to the chapel of rest to see Mom, but I was struggling. I didn’t want to but I needed to. The phone rang and it was my sister. ‘Have you seen the rainbow Sue?’

I looked out to a glorious rainbow to what seemed to reach from my house to hers.

I went to see Mom shortly afterwards, which took away the pain of the image in my mind of her last moments. On our way home, we saw another rainbow, right over the place where Mom had collapsed. It was as though God was saying ‘It’s OK, she’s with me’.

Diamond.

Way back in 1990 I had this word from God. ‘As you stand firm on my rock, the storms will swirl around you and come against you but I AM YOUR ROCK do not move from me. When you walk forward lean into the storm, lean into the wind, do not be forced back, do not bow down to the pressures that come against you for the victory is mine.’

Strong words, words that were to stand me in good stead in the years that followed.

The storms did come, many of them, but after each and every storm came the rainbow, I love rainbows and I am reminded of God’s promise to me every time.  Of course, it’s not a physical rainbow every time; God speaks to us in different ways. Above all,  he has equipped us with His word and in it we can discover the soundest advice for every situation we face.

Underlined in my bible are many promises – for my family, for each of my children, my grandchildren…for my life.

I stand on those promises. Speak them out. Shout them out. Cry them out.

I speak Gods word into dark situations and I see His answer come. In His time.

God comes into our dark times in so many ways to let us know He is walking beside us.

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On New Years Eve 2006, I went to church feeling tired and sad because my Uncle had passed away the night before in hospital. He’d wanted to go, he’d had enough of this life and had prayed many times for God to take him.

We got to the hospital, he’d just gone and there was his bible, open at his favorite scripture. ‘In my Fathers house are many mansions.’ What a blessing to me that was.

Diamond.

Back to New Years Eve morning. It was testimony time so I got up and gave testimony to the wonderful things God had been doing in my family. As I went and sat down I experienced a massive pain in my head. I managed to find the church foyer where I lay on the floor unable to move, I remember friends praying for me at that moment. Days later in the Queen Elizabeth hospital my consultant came to me and said I need to be rejoicing as 50% of people die on the way to hospital after a subarachnoid brain hemorrhage that I had experienced.

Diamond.

Even this last week we had some news that caused us much joy yet attached to it so much pain. In that pain I am praying ‘God, show yourself in this’. As we walked out of our house. I looked up at our Rose of Sharon bush…and there were unexpected fresh blooms. The Rose of Sharon represents Jesus.

Diamond.

These are just a few of many examples of how God speaks to me. Always, someway, somehow. God’s diamonds appear but we have to look for them, to listen for Him in those dark places.’

Thanks Mom – Encouraging words today, and knowing you you’ll keep adding to them as the day goes by!

I would add, that we have faced the worst of situations as a family and in them we have seen the best of God. Be encouraged to look for Him in the places you find yourselves today, He so loves to speak to us.

Verses to encourage you:

O Lord, in you I have found a safe place. Let me never be ashamed. Set me free, because You do what is right and good. Turn Your ear to me, and be quick to save me. Be my rock of strength, a strong place to keep me safe. For You are my rock and my safe place. For the honor of Your name, lead me and show me the way.’ Psalm 31:1-3

In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.’ Psalm 18:6

Moses spoke to the people: ‘Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today.’ Exodus 14:13

Finally, be blessed by this song… Your word unfailing. Your promise unshaken. All my hope is in You

What diamonds have you seen this week?

See you tomorrow,

Love, Michelle xoxo

NaBloPoMo November 2013

Sunday Soup.

Day 24.

Less of my words today but a hearty combination of pics and links for your Sunday.

Yesterday, I woke too early to a text from Emily asking to be picked up from her KCC ‘all nighter’.  I threw my coat on over my PJ’s in true Rutland Style. Had I not had to leave the house in -5 and de-ice my car I would have missed this.

de iceGive Thanks

had to stop the car on my way to pick up groceries to enjoy my favourite artist enjoying a pastel moment. ‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.’ C. S. Lewis.

IMG_3658Go Slow

Links I’ve enjoyed this week.

Josiah loves Kid president and his advice on 20 things we should say more often.

Oh Dove.

Grant (yourself) Grace.

We all love this. Sing. Sing. Sing!

Be God-Struck

I’ll end with a story we have all heard before.

One day, father was doing some work and his son came and asked, “Daddy, may I ask you a question?” Father said, “Yeah sure, what it is?” So his son asked, “Dad, how much do you make an hour?” Father got bit upset and said, “That’s none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?” Son said, “I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?” So, father told him “I make Rs. 500 per hour.”

“Oh”, the little boy replied, with his head down. Looking up, he said, “Dad, may I please borrow Rs. 300?” The father furiously said, “if the only reason you asked about my pay is so that you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or other nonsense, then march yourself to your room and go to bed. Think why you are being so selfish. I work hard every day and do not like this childish behavior.”

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door. The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy’s questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money? After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down, and started to think, “May be there was something he really needed to buy with that Rs. 300 and he really didn’t ask for money very often!” The man went to the door of little boy’s room and opened the door. “Are you asleep, son?” He asked. “No daddy, I’m awake,” replied the boy. “I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier”, said the man. “It’s been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you, Here’s the Rs.300 you asked for”.

The little boy sat straight up, smiling “oh thank you dad!” Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled some crumpled up notes. The man, seeing that the boy already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, then looked up at his father.

“Why do you want money if you already had some?” the father grumbled. “Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do,” the little boy replied. “Daddy I have Rs. 500 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you”. Father was dumbstruck.

With this reminder, my children have all of me today.

…and if my house feels dusty, it doesn’t matter because look! So pretty.

IMG_3661Dust, magnified 22 million times. pic. twitter.com/QVmzDBY3I8

 Go slow. Be God-struck. Grant grace. Live Truth. Give Thanks. Love well.

Re–joice. Share Whatever Is Good. Anne Voskamp.

See you tomorrow,

Love, Michelle xoxo

NaBloPoMo November 2013

A Cosmic Trio.

Day 23.

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C.S.-Lewis

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Guest Post: P.J Collins.

What a week it is, half a century for these unlikely travelers.

Let me start with a confession; I love Doctor Who. Yes, I am that stereotypical six year old hiding behind the sofa, terrified of bog eyed alien monsters.  A 60’s child, so Tom Baker the fourth doctor will always be my Doc.

This week is the 50th anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy and C. S. Lewis, Kennedy and Lewis who passed into a faraway country.

And 50 years of Dr. Who, the longest running Sci fi series to visit our TV screens, with 10 million Britons watching the second show, Kennedy was dead and the Daleks had landed – Lewis’s death was overshadowed that week.

This cosmic trio have influenced my life.

Kennedy, the most distant of my influences gave us the moon –  his speech, his belief and passion that captured a generation’s imagination. We can go beyond. The impossible can be possible, what is unreachable can be reached. He lit the touchpaper and reignited the imagination, he declared ‘A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on’. I can still see those speckled images as man walked on the moon, ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ You see I’m an optimist, I believe in believing. Keep looking up and beyond.

It is Lewis’ understanding of mankind that gave us another giant leap, offering us theology and poetry mingled together in a very holy union. He taught me that atheism is deadly and dull, uninteresting, lacking imagination, unpoetic. It was the glimpse of joy that captured his heart, you know how it is when you read something and it speaks into those deep places, you gaze into a mountain range, glimpsing that joy. I see my walk with Christ like this, listening to his whispers, the prayer, the poetic imagination of our communion with God. We need to put the poetic and imagination right at the centre of our walk with Christ. I want to sit with Jesus as the paralysed man descends through the roof and dust fills the small room; I feel the shock as he heals the withered hand as I stand in the crowd and feel their hard hearts around me. You see I have always had the desire to push through the wardrobe and walk into Narnia. Too many Christians are still organising the coats in the wardrobe and miss the wonder of Aslan. Atheism is dull but Christianity without imagination is deadly.

Tears never fail me when the children in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe return to war-torn Britain from Narnia, there is a land beyond that reaches into our world at war.

From a wardrobe to a police box. What captures me about 50 years of Doctor Who is that he has been always present in our living rooms, on those rainy winter afternoons, after hours of playing football or as a teenager walking around the town centre. It is the constant epic, the themes of salvation, redemption; standing against merciless aliens that want to conquer mankind and enslave them, stealing the uniqueness, stealing life. It is the Doctors need for companionship and the many dimensions he travels through. The world may be overrun by aliens but one man always turns up.

Yes the biblical themes scream at us.

For many in faith we have forgotten that we are in an epic struggle for freedom, that He will return and so many have been captured by this alien force.We must not forget “thy kingdom come” we must not forget the heavens, the eternal reality of the cosmic struggle.

Thankful today for this cosmic trio.

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Fly.

Day 22.

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It’s Five Minute Friday and today’s prompt is FLY.

Joining other bloggers in five minutes of free writing – no editing, no perfecting. Simply ~~flowing~~

Should I write about my love for Fly boots?

Or my love for flying to the UK, and flying back to Kelowna again.

Or when Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) rescued me from the African bush after our car accident, and the locals had to clear a runway in the village and the local witchdoctor surrounded us drum, drum, drumming.

Fly. Hmmm. You’ve only got 5 minutes Michelle. Stop waffling!

….I wrote a post during the Spring, ‘Look at Birds.

I encouraged you to be careless in the cares of God.

I showed pictures of the robin nesting outside of my bedroom window, of bright blue eggs and bald baby birds.

I remember during that time we held a buzzing baptism service at church, where youth and young adults gave glorious testimonies of their salvation, new life, healing.

The overflowing church erupted in praise time and time again, the love of God lifting the roof.

Back to my yard.

During the nesting time I let my dog Sunny out in the yard as usual. The robin would swoop and dive-bomb the dog. The dog would chase the bird.

The fight was intense.

But, what the Momma Bird didn’t… couldn’t do was protect her fledglings from the only response our dog knew.

I had watched and marvelled at those eggs and hatching and first days.

And then… Gone.

Back to church.

We have a responsibility to care and nurture our babes far beyond the glorious testimonies of their new birth.

We are called to disciple and lead our people into a deep faith walk, to encourage them to ask the hard questions and navigate ways through the fog of doubt.

We are called to offer wisdom on the scriptures that speak of the reality of darkness and to shine a light on the enemy of our souls who wants to kill, steal and destroy.

We are called to invest time and energy into those who learn from and follow our example. Those who are looking at our life and asking: how would you handle this…that’s how I will do it. How do you live your life, how do you react to this situation, how do you handle your kids? Those questions can only be answered when we are willing to be a gracious, godly attempt of the answer.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.’ Donald Miller.

I have seen this lived out strong among our youth and young adults. Sharing lives in genuine care, homes, hands and lives open.

‘It is beautiful to discover our wings and learn how to fly; flight is a beautiful process. But then to rest on the wings of God as He flies: this is divine.’ C Joybell C

Five minutes are up (or thereabouts)

What does discipleship look like to you?

Who are you protecting and nurturing to enable them to fly?

See you tomorrow,

Love, Michelle xoxo

What do you mean you wanted to hear about MAF rescuing me?!

NaBloPoMo November 2013

Five Minute Friday

Expectations?

Day 20.

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I’m expecting good things from this post…

The scenario. Jesus continued on his travels and entered a village where Martha opened her home to him. Mary sat and listened; hanging on every word Jesus said while Martha busied herself in the kitchen. Martha has often got a bad rap in this story but in her defence she did open her home and they had to eat!

…But all she had to do in the kitchen pulled Martha away. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. ‘Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand’. Oh, I’d be huffin and a puffin in that kitchen clattering those dishes, sighing and whying. Poking in my head in and with that sarcastic edge saying ‘err sorry to interrupt but is there any chance of some help in here’.

Martha’s expectations were different.  Jesus responds with ‘Mary has chosen better.’ There’s the expectation gap – the gap between what we expect and what we experience.

That gap exists in our everyday doesn’t it.

Our summer holidays, the care of others, your kids rooms, their behaviour, them. What church should look like, feel like, sound like.

Frustration sets it until it becomes the bitterness gap. My experience is often limited by my expectations.

*I recognize that our disappointments are often much bigger than this story but we can learn from the heart of it.

Here are some points to consider:

I cannot expect what I do not express. At least Martha said what she was thinking. ‘Don’t you care Lord that she’s left me abandoned in the kitchen.’ How often do I leave my expectations unexpressed? Quietly imposing my standards on others.

I am not authorized to negotiate anyone else’s relationship with God. We can be disappointed in our experience of others, expecting them to express their faith in a certain way. We cannot live another’s experience, worship, prayer or service. We are individually called to answer for our own.

My problem is placing my perception of God’s expectation on others. I realize more and more I have to stand before God for me – not you.

I have attended 4 churches in my 25-year journey with Jesus. I began in a church of ‘no denomination’ although affiliated with the Holiness Pentecostal Movement. For me, there were positives that I hold dear. But we were the best, the elite – or so we thought. We were charismatic; we hosted the biggest names in that movement, we did the lot, often with a heavy dose of judgment on our part. Sorry.

Years later, Phil became Pastor of our home church, our roots. It was here I decided to live out my faith differently because I didn’t want to be told how to behave in my expression.  I would do it my way…all this while looking back and judging my previous experience.  8 years later I moved to an Anglican church in the role of community worker. I quickly judged this church, desperate for things as they were until I decided to remove my charismatic blinkers. I took God out ‘my’ box and began to embrace worship, liturgy, service as it is meant to be. Personal. Owned. It was then I saw a community of people loving God, owning their calling and serving well in the community they were given.

And now I am here, in Kelowna at Willow Park Church. Embracing all of the above in a boxless, spacious place.

I must resist the temptation to draft others into my dysfunction. The above kind of attitude brings a ‘nobody gets lives it the right way but me mentality.’ If there are certain cycles on repeat. Like every church is dissatisfying and every friendship is not up to my standards and everything your child does is not good enough. We might need to look in the mirror. I know I do anyway.

Jesus says ‘Martha Martha, you’re fussing’

Michelle Michelle, you are worried upset, stop the ‘if only they would just….’

The greatest source of my frustration with others is my confusion about God’s expectations of me. Martha was doing the right thing, the thing she was good at, but her heart was a confused. Ask this question. What is it Lord that you want of me? Clarify his expectations of you and hold them close. One of my favorite posts was the expectations of a pastor’s wife. Expectations of others on me – perceived or otherwise.

I know many who read this are in places they never expected to be. Jesus is saying don’t let the way you thought it should play out keep you from experiencing the joy of entering the deepest place and finding me there.

Mary chose what was better. His presence. His ways are above our ways, his thoughts above our thoughts. Don’t let darkness diminish your expectation, it’s time to resurrect your hope.

*Don’t let what you expected keep you from what God wants you to experience* Steven Furtick

I’ll finish with this story…

WELCOME TO HOLLAND

By 
Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

Hope this encourages you today!

See you tomorrow,

Love, Michelle xoxo

*Today’s post was inspired by Steven Furtick’s teaching ‘the Expectation Gap’

NaBloPoMo November 2013

Reach Out.

Day 18.

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Today’s word Prompt. Reach.

Hmmm. Reach – to stretch out an arm in a specified direction in order to touch or grasp something. I ponder which direction to take this, should I offer a rendition of  ‘Reach for Stars’ by S Club or let’s go 60’s and sing the Four Tops classic ‘Reach Out – I’ll be there’ … obviously waaay before my time, but my Auntie Steph played it a lot.

Or we could look at Jesus inviting Thomas to reach out…

The disciples have seen Jesus, he is risen. Thomas has yet to see him and makes it clear that unless he sees the nail marks and puts his finger in his side, he won’t believe. Then there’s the moment when Thomas is face to face with Jesus. Imagine being there, in that room. The doors are locked. The disciples are gathered and Jesus enters. Jesus turns to Thomas and invites him to reach out his hand to his side. To stop doubting and believe. The tension. Will he? Does he? The story goes on to say that Thomas sees, believes and cries out ‘My Lord and My God!’ to which Jesus replies, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Love this, especially as this verse lands on us, the ones who have believed without seeing. Blessed.

So as I reflect on that thought I am led to write to thank the One who reached out to me.

Reach – Inspired by Psalm 40.

I’m breathing.

Darkness swallows whole, echoes down here.

Slime. Stuck.

Wait.

I’m silent.

Surrounded by the mess of me.

I abandon.

Quiet.

I’m inhaling. 

New fragrance meandering through putrid alleys.

Breathe.

I’m hearing.

Faint somethings of an unfamiliar sound.

Listen.

I’m feeling. 

A dancing breeze, blowing in a new choreography.

Move.

I’m touching.

Ropes. Climb. Wings spread.

Heights.

I’m calling.

You hear. You hear.

You rescue. You’re here.

I’m listening. 

Thunder, wild, declaring.

Ending.

I’m tasting.

We sit. We feast.

Purity.

I’m singing. A new song.

I’m seeing. You. In me.

 

See you tomorrow!

Love, Michelle xoxo

NaBloPoMo November 2013

 

Glorious Ruins

Day 13.

burnt out carPic by Phil

I grab my writing moments as Bella has her swimming lesson, it’s the end of the day, the YMCA feels like a noisy public sauna and it’s midnight dark outside.

Today has forced me to focus on a ruin.

You know the type. Where dysfunction, bad choices and pain have created a desolate rubble heap. Where abandonment resembles charred ashes. This ruin has been desolate for too long.

I face this and wonder if there hope in this situation.

A glimmer?

Surely if I stand for anything it’s hope.

So I search for the answer in the One who left glory to be ruined.

I turn to ruins in scripture and find Ezra and Nehemiah. I see the Old Testament temple overthrown and burnt to the ground. I smell a land charred. Desolate. I see the foundations cracked. Gaping. I see the city walls ruined. Defenseless.

Ruins – we see them everywhere don’t we? Fragile humanity.

Ezra focuses on rebuilding the temple, Nehemiah on the rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. What gems did I learn from these stories?

Survey the land before building. Vision gives life. Wisdom leads. Rebuilding needs people. It takes courage. Opposition will come. You will be discouraged. There’s always trouble. Strong foundations are built on praise. Plans are interrupted. There is accusation for those rebuilding. God steps in at the appropriate time. The prophetic voice is strong. The promises of God are yes. The temple was rebuilt. God is intimately involved in our lives. He does the impossible.

These verses:

Ezra. 7:28 Because the Lord my God was helping me, I had courage…

Ezra 10-11 When the workers laid the foundation of The Temple of God, the priests in their robes stood up with trumpets, and the Levites, sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise God in the tradition of David king of Israel. They sang antiphonally praise and thanksgiving to God: Yes! God is good!
Oh yes—he’ll never quit loving Israel! All the people boomed out hurrahs, praising God as the foundation of The Temple of God was laid.

Ezra 8:21. I proclaimed a fast that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions

Then there were these words…. to this song….

Glorious Ruins

by Hillsong.

 When the mountains fall

And the tempest roars You are with me

When creation folds

Still my soul will soar on Your mercy

 

I’ll walk through the fire

With my head lifted high

And my spirit revived in Your story

And I’ll look to the cross

As my failure is lost

In the light of Your glorious grace

 

Let the ruins come to life

In the beauty of Your Name

Rising up from the ashes

God forever You reign

 

And my soul will find refuge

In the shadow of Your wings

I will love You forever

And forever I’ll sing

 

When the world caves in

Still my hope will cling to Your promise

Where my courage ends

Let my heart find strength in Your presence

Thankful to Jesus – the ultimate Glorious Ruin.

Hope this post encourages you, it did me. You are loved.

See you tomorrow!

Love, Michelle xo

Marnie’s Story.

Day 8.

My friend Marnie recently spoke at our women’s group, this is her story as I heard it. I’m glad she agreed to let me share it – her story needs a voice.Image

Withdrawal. 

‘…I had always felt the different one in my loving home – the loud, crazy, weird one. I was proud of my outspokenness and I liked to have fun. I was the big one, the insensitive one in social situations. At school I was the ‘not so pretty girl’ and the target for bullies. While I was proud of being different I didn’t realize a seed of rejection had been planted and the rejection I faced at school and church watered this until the roots began to choke out the person I was. They shaped me into a hard, strong, independent woman, who covered sadness with humor, surrounding myself with people and activities to keep my sadness and anxiety at bay. In all the surrounding I was lonely.

My earliest memories are of anxiety and worry. I felt like I had to make sure everyone in my family was safe, if I could control every situation it would be OK.

This behavior continued into my adulthood and just before I got married my body began to break down. The constant stress and anxiety started to take its toll and I developed allergies resulting in torturous itching.

I married my college sweetheart and promptly regretted it. Marriage wasn’t anything that I had thought it would be.  I had married an alien – how was I going to do this for the rest of my life?

My health issues continued, a herniated disc, years of debilitating pain, unable to walk most days and in and out of the hospital. The pain radiated down my leg causing permanent nerve damage. I suffered in silence. I withdrew from life, angry at God, wondering why he was doing this to me. This was not what I had planned. I was going to be a wife and mom who stayed at home and raised my babies. So far I had married an alien, had 2 miscarriages and was unable to carry a baby to term. As my friends around me were having babies I sunk into anger and despair.

Adoption.

I had always felt a calling to adopt and had shared this with Rob before we got married. One day we received a call from the ministry saying that they were looking to place a child into a family. This started us on the fast track through home studies and background checks. The child was placed elsewhere but during the process we met our son. We fell in love with 3 year old Geo, he came to live with us, it was clear he was in mourning for the loss of all that he had known. He had come from a completely dysfunctional situation where there were no boundaries or rules, for a child with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) this was a really unhealthy combination.

We believed the sooner he had boundaries, rules and structure he would be much better off, we focused more on bad behavior than on forging a strong loving relationship. We didn’t realize the damage that was being done and as we focused on curbing the bad behavior his frustration and anger grew.

When Geo was 11, it all came to a head. We had just had our birth daughter and we had also adopted two more children with FASD. Our house was out of control and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Geo refused to assimilate with our family and was becoming increasingly more abusive and mean to us all. He began running away and destroying his room. Staying up throughout the night screaming and pounding the walls while kicking the ceiling above his bunk bed. We were all at our wits end and the anger that we felt towards him was toxic to all of us. We began looking for treatment programs for troubled youth but found Canada sadly lacking. My life long friend with 2 teenage boys offered to take Geo for 2 months so that we could regroup. During this time we got a key worker who worked with us to understand FASD and we started to implement strategies that would help us all succeed. I was not emotionally prepared for his return, suffering with PTSD from years of emotional abuse and his rejection of me as his mom. His behaviour continued.

Grace.

I had completely shut myself off from everyone and had nothing to give. I met an acquaintance one day who invited me to a bible study on love.

I laughed to myself as I thought that once again God was giving me a kick to get up and love this kid. For many years, well meaning people had offered their help and advice. Often pushing me more to bury myself away reminding me again of the root of ‘you are not good enough’. I had nowhere else to run, my humor was gone, I said ‘OK God if this is what I need to do I will do it.’

I went to the bible study on love and I listened quietly until I thought my head would explode, I finally said to the leader ‘how can I love someone who is abusing me’? I closed my eyes and squared my shoulders waiting for the inevitable Christian answer. But it never came, instead the women came around me and prayed for me. They gave me grace. This was my first breakthrough into healing and softening my heart – and I will never forget that feeling of grace. I never realized that what I was craving was grace. The strong independent one who never gave grace to myself or others. Something inside me changed as I experienced grace.  Grace is so important in this busy, harsh and judgmental world that we live in. I began to heal slowly, but not enough, I was still stuck in my pain.

Tears.

We finally met our counselor who helped us transform our family, by introducing us and teaching us the works of Gordon Neufeld. Through many months of counselling we have learned to stop reacting to Geo’s behaviour and instead address the root. Asking ourselves first why is he so angry and frustrated? How have we contributed to that? How can we respond differently in order to diffuse that anger and frustration? What does he need from us?

We started building a connection that was subtle, persistent, enduring and calm. Geo began to feel like we “got” him, that we really were in charge and that things were going to be OK. With that sense, he could breath a little more deeply and learn to relax and rest, instead of constantly living in the fight or flight mode. We learned to find a softness for him that we had lost along the way.

But, I didn’t think I would ever learn to love this kid again. I was holding onto my anger and sadness with everything in me, I was so defended after years of pain and abuse that had been inflicted by Geo, I did not have any desire to change it. The only reason I agreed to go to counseling was because I had 3 others coming up behind him. If I could stop what had happened with Geo from happening with the other kids, I would go. I had absolutely no hope of repairing our relationship.

The process of trying to fix my son led me to the startling realization that it was me that needed fixing. My counselor kept telling me, “you need to find your sadness, find your tears for this kid. You need to feel your futility”. Human nature is such that when the going gets tough we get tougher. I had lost my ability to feel my sadness because if I did I might shatter into a million pieces. As I started realizing what it meant to find my sadness I began to feel the layers start to unravel, recognizing how they had changed who I was. My past had shaped the person that I was. My parents were amazing, loving and committed, who were frustrated with a daughter that they didn’t understand or know how to help. They, as we were, would have been heart broken to know that they had wounded me with their words. I would not have recognized it had it not been for what we began to understand from Gordon Neufeld about anxiety and defended behavior with respect to feelings of attachment.

Every reaction I had in my life was based on those feelings of the little girl trapped in perceived rejection – toward my friends – being funny, toward my parents – controlling circumstances, towards my husband – never relying on him, towards my kids – not being soft and loving, and towards God by trying to run the show on my own.

I was defended against being vulnerable – to everyone. – how then could I expect my 11 year old to be any less defended against vulnerability?

When I was able to see Geo for the scared, lonely three year old that he had been, I began my journey to find my tears. I shed the tears of my futility and it helped me to cultivate courage.

Authentic self.

I had the courage to face my fears and in doing so, I am now able to live my authentic self, the woman God made me to be, not the woman that others caused me to see myself as, not the woman I had molded myself into, but the woman God saw me as.

I no longer feel different, I feel strong, poised with God’s strength not my own. I no longer feel inadequate to be a mother my 4 beautiful children. I am secure and through his grace laying it down daily – my anxieties, sadness. In doing so I am learning to be a softer, gentler more compassionate me.

I strive to give grace to others and to myself. God has tasked me with 3 special need kids and a toddler who tests me daily.  When the going gets tough they inspire me to be softer not harder. I try to find my heart eyes – to look underneath the surface of the moment to the inner workings of my kids, to try to find a way to really see each of my kids with eyes that know them and their needs and then the answer of what they need in that moment becomes intuitive. This journey has not been easy and I probably would not have chosen it but had I not gone through every single one of the trials I would not have found my way back to God, to my authentic self.

The bible says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’ 2 Corinthians 12:9

When I allowed the feeling of grace to wash over me from others it began to change me, when I allowed God’s grace and God’s strength to flow through me that is when the real change started.

‘God desires to restore us—the real us. As he heals our inner life, he calls us to rise to the occasion of our lives. The most important journey any woman can take is the journey into becoming her true self through the love of God. It’s a beautiful paradox. The more of God’s you become, the more yourself you become—the “self” he had in mind when he thought of you before the creation of the world’. Staci Eldridge ‘Becoming Myself – Embracing God’s Dream of You’

Thanks for taking the time to read this,  I hope it encourages you,

See you tomorrow, Michelle xoxo
NaBloPoMo November 2013

Billy Graham’s last sermon.

Day 8.

I’m posting earlier today as it’s movie night tonight in the Collins house! (for those who aren’t at parties/sleepovers/retreats)

So my post today comes from the evangelist Billy Graham.

….It’s 1984, I’m 13 and I remember walking home from school through the housing estates. My ankle length, bottle green pencil skirt ensuring my walk home took twice as long. I remember the windows covered in posters campaigning – wait, on closer look this is not a political campaign, but a crusade.

Yes, Billy Graham was coming to Birmingham.

4811959497_daaaaf11f2_zBilly Graham preaching. 1984.

My time for listening to evangelists and finding the love of God was still a few years away but Phil was well involved in the mission at the Aston Villa football ground.

Phil remembers the mission well; a young evangelist assigned the role of youth counsellor, working in the office through the night, organizing response forms into regions, and swimming in the River Severn during break times (in the night…)

Phil was also part of the ‘young evangelists’ of the UK, and when he wasn’t swimming in the river he was in the Aston Villa social club receiving lectures from Leighton Ford and Cliff Barrows.

Billy came and spoke to the young evangelists and Phil remembers meeting him on the car park where they shook hands and chatted a while. ‘I cor believe I’ve met yow Billy’ said the young Phil, Billy looking perplexed at the foreign accent…we still experience the same look today. The group of around 25 young evangelists were taken to the stadium and allowed to ‘have a go’ on the microphone preaching … to an empty stadium.

‘We all wanted to be Billy Graham. He is the evangelist’s hero…a man of integrity and clarity with a non-ostentatious manner’ says Phil.  Years later Phil joined the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association as they developed UK evangelists, spending time in Charlotte, South Carolina.

547223_124146944445623_819220543_n-1Phil Collins preaching. 2013.

So, when we heard that Billy Graham now 95 is preaching his last sermon to be aired on Thursday evening we were ready to listen.

To listen to the 30 minute video click here. If not, read on for a summary.

‘I want to tell people about the meaning of the cross … the real cross of Christ,’ the frail evangelist proclaims in the video. ‘I know that many will react to this message, but it is the truth and with all my heart, I want to leave you with the truth.’ He then went on to discuss his view on the importance of accepting Jesus Christ and following the Christian saviour.

‘People don’t want to hear that they’re sinners, to many people it’s an offense…the cross is offensive, because it directly confronts the evils that dominates so much of this world…even so it’s a confrontation we must all face’

He went on to explain that the Christian message demands that believers embrace a new lifestyle — one that directly confronts mankind’s sinful nature.

He told viewers that God can renew their spirits and that ‘there is no other way of salvation except through the cross of Christ.’

The message is interspersed with testimonies from musicians Lacey Sturm and Lecrae Moore.

Lacey, blaming God for painful circumstances was asked to go to church during the time she was planning suicide. She slumped down, hiding at the back of church. She hated everyone, especially the pastor at that moment. When the pastor declared there was a suicidal spirit in the room her hair stood up. She tried to escape but was stopped by a member of the church who wanted to pray for her – he told her that Her heavenly father would be a better father, that He knew her pain, that he had seen her tears. As the pray-er put his hand on her shoulder the God of ‘the universe showed up.’ She says ‘God invited me into the embrace of grace’

I love those words. The embrace of grace.

Then, there’s the story of Lecrae, drinking, sleeping around, pointing guns at people for fun, creating fear. He experienced the love of God but still went back to his ‘old’ life. Until he was cut off in his truck, resulting in it rolling and flipping,  glass shattering. Lecrae walked out unmarked and realized it was time to stop running.

Both of these stories when merged, become my story.

I crashed, I survived, I hid, was found, received his love, experienced his embrace. Transforming an emotionally tough hurting kid from the Lye, to a forgiven, healed, transformed kid from the Lye!

Nothing I did. Nothing I could earn. It was all through the cross.

So, after reading that summary you’d like to watch it? Great. Click here – for some of you it will be the best 30 minutes you will spend this weekend.

See you tomorrow,

Love, Michelle xoxo

TuneIn

Day 5. 

snowflake

I woke to white this morning. I was shocked – didn’t the children just go back to school? The snow didn’t stick around. I drove my car. The school stayed open. Life carried on.

I am not tuned into Winter that’s for sure – they tell me it’s 49 days until Christmas. Seriously?

My thoughts for today…

Our blood carries a distinct sound frequency. Years ago Harvard researchers were excited to discover that proteins in our DNA make sounds. Not only did they hear sounds from the protein in DNA but an organized, melodious song.

There’s more.

Inside of every person is a unique melodious song.

You are no accident, God went so much further than creating light, mountains, oceans.

He sang your DNA into being, and what’s more he continues to sing.

DNA mosaic

‘For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs’ Zeph 3:17

This verse speaks of singing, joy, God himself shouting with emotional excitement!

Gods heart song is YOU!

You were in Christ before the foundations of the world. Your destiny is in Him, I know that what happened to you after you were born distorts this song, walking in pain and hurt is not your destiny.

You are not what was done to you but who you were created to be. 

Jesus died on the cross. His blood speaks. It restores your song, and when you invite Jesus into your life, restoration and transformation takes place.

Imagine how this could change our lives. Comprehending this truth for ourself. Seeing others as a unique song.

Stuart Mitchell, composer says ‘We are sung musically into form. We are all part of a symphony, a choreography of a score. But we bring love to the game. That is our essence, our participation and our ultimate goal’.  This quote came from a website from the UK where you can send samples, pay 500 pounds and receive your unique DNA song. Who knew?

I can offer another option where the sounds of your song are played. The word of God. Why not pick up a bible, read some verses and hear a new song and if you don’t know where to start – message me, and if you don’t have a bible you can download the YouVersion bible from the app store for free!

Why not start with these:

Psalm 139:14 ‘You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.’

Job 33:4 ‘The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.’

Jeremiah 29:11. ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’ The Voice version adds ‘Never forget that’

Jeremiah 31:3 ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’

How will YOU hear your song? Will you listen? How will your song be played? Who will hear?

Excited to share this today!

See you tomorrow.

Love, Michelle xo

NaBloPoMo November 2013