There’s an old story that tells of a young man who tripped and fell while taking an early morning walk along the cliff tops above the ocean. Suddenly he found himself hurtling towards the jagged rocks below. Half way down he grabbed hold of a scrawny branch growing out of the cliff face. He clung on for dear life, dangling precariously above the raging surf shouting for help for what seemed like hours. So far from the cliff top, with the roar of the surf below, his shouts went unheard.
“Help, help. Is anyone there?”
Eventually he heard a voice, “Yes I’m here. Do you need help?”
“Yes, yes desperately. I’m about to fall – please help me.” He shouted.
“I’m happy to.” Said the voice.
“I can’t see you. Where are you?” The guy shouted; his hands about to slip.
“Oh you can’t see me.” Said the voice, “I’m God.”
“Oh! OK, that’s fine, I just need you to get me to safety.”
“I can do that,” said God, “I just need you to trust me and let go of the branch.”
“WHAT? You want me to let go? If I do that I’ll be smashed to bits on the rocks, and even if that doesn’t kill me, I’ll drown.”
“If you let go I’ll save you,” reiterated God. “I promise.”
The man pondered silently. Time stood still.
“Is anyone else there?” He shouted.
Whether you’re dangling thousands of feet above the rocks or overwhelmed by the junk life likes to throw our way, trusting God can seem like a gargantuan leap of faith or sheer madness.
My cancer diagnosis (rectal cancer – I know, there’s nothing sexy about it and it doesn’t come with a cuddly pink teddy bear) sent me plummeting over the cliff, leaving me clinging to that branch.
If you did set resolutions why not switch them into intentions (it’s not too late) so you can offer yourself grace when you veer off the path you planned and live happily ever after. Grace isn’t an excuse for not trying, but it is forgiveness for our guilt swamped hearts – and we all need more more of that in our success driven world don’t we?
Here are some of my 2017 resolutions I turned into intentions.
In 2017 I intend to;
1.Have a daily quiet time .
Sitting down with the creator of the universe, reading the book he wrote for us, worshipping, listening, and asking for His help with all that’s wrong in the world and my life, is THE best thing I could do to kick off my day. Yet experience tells me I won’t manage everyday and that’s ok. I know He’s with me and loves me anyway. But my intention won’t change.
As New Year’s Eve approached and 2016 began to dwindle I meant to do so much; transfer dreams from my heart to tangible goals on paper, choose a “Word” for 2017, write more, post more, ask you dear friends what you’re going through and how I might help best. Add to that the mountain of family “stuff” I want/need to do, like spend time with my kids without saying “have you tidied your room?” and get my son’s 19th birthday present in the post before he turns 35.
But I’ve procrastinated, putting things off under the camouflage of “It’s the holidays, I’ll do it in the new year.” But the new year is here, the door has closed on 2016, and 2017 stands open and inviting, but still, like a bunny in headlights, I freeze.
I’m frightened of failing, looking stupid, what you’ll think, getting it wrong, what might happen, upsetting people, of failing (I’ know I said that, but that really scares me), and I hate the thought of letting everyone down.
As I sat at the kitchen table this morning pouring my heart out to God, He lead me to Joshua 1:9. The familiar verse reminds us (actually it commands us) to not be afraid because He’s with us. He nailed it – what’s the worst that could happen if He’s with me? Then He and gently reminded me that my sweet friend Kelly Balarie had sent me a guest post about Beating the Beast of Worry. So I’m sharing my fears with you, just as she shares hers with us all, to encourage us that God is with us, and we needn’t be afraid.
Kelly’s a gem and a cheerleader of everyone she meets. Let’s live 2017 fearless – Oh, I think I’ve found my word for 2017!! FEARLESS!!
“Twas two nights before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”
Except me, that is.
And quite possibly you.
That’s because 50% of people suffer from insomnia due to stress, and Christmas is so stressful that 45% of American would rather skip it altogether. That’s so sad, and unfortunately for us ladies, we’re twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men. Whoever said Christmas was a time of peace obviously hadn’t seen my action list – it’s more Old Testament scroll than post-it note.
So if you’re the one stirring in the wee hours while the mice are snoring loudly, you’re not alone. It’s only two days until Christmas and there are still presents to buy, cards to send, mall madness to navigate, children to ferry around, and painful memories to wade through.
So what’s a girl to do? Is more tea and coffee in the morning the only answer?
As you know, I’m a self confessed list keeper, with lists of the lists I have to make. They calm me – the very act of committing things to paper unburdens my small and overworked mind. There’s my supermarket list, Target list, thank you note list, present list, Christmas card list, meal plan list, and the list of “people who sent me cards that I really must add to our Christmas card list.”
This year I added my To-Don’t list. It’s a brilliant reminder of all the things I don’t want to do this Christmas, like saying yes to every invitation, laundry and thinking I need a perfect house to have a lovely Christmas.
The To-don’t listhelped destress me, but as the grey dawn of morning announces a new day, I’m reminded that I need to look inwards, as well as outwards, this Christmas. So I’ve made a To-Be List. The goal of the To-Be List is not to name everything Facebook and the world of CrestWhite smiles and TV commercials tells me I need to be, but rather, to list everything I’d like to be this Christmas, to be fully me – the me God created me to be.
Here’s a taster of my To-Be List.
This Christmas I want to BE;
Present in the present – it’s so easy to fixate on hurts and failures in our past, and worry about all that’s to come in the year ahead. When we do, we find ourselves absent from the moment, unengaged in the present. I want to BE PRESENT emotionally, physically and spiritually. That means putting the past and the future in God’s hands.
Brave and awkward – Christmas can be a smorgasbord of difficult situations, strained relationships and uneasy conversations. When we bravely choose to step into the awkward, vulnerable places in love, we are choosing connection over division.
Myself – So much easier said than done, but I want to embrace the me I was created to be. I often hide the real me away, believing the world and the enemy when they say I’m too brash, not good enough, embarrassing, a lousy friend, and in need of a little refining. Yet God says we’re enough and He loves us just as we are.
The light in someone else’s darkness – Christmas isn’t light and laughter for everyone. For many there’ll be empty places at the table, children’s stocking lying unfilled, medical diagnoses to navigate and financial burdens to carry, all darkening the silent, holy nights of the season. Being the light in someone else’s dark times can be as simple as a hug that says “I know it’s hard and painful right now, and I’m so, so sorry.”
The first one eating chocolate on Christmas morning. Some traditions must never fade with the passage of time, and this is one of them. As kids, as soon as my we found the Smartie packets (delicious English multicolored chocolate buttons a bit like M&M’s, but waaaaay better!) buried deep in our stockings we’d start munching. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without chocolate for a pre-breakfast snack.
With Jesus – Not taking time to be with Jesus; celebrating the meaning of His birth and the impact it’s had on us all, would be like throwing a massive party and not spending a moment with the birthday boy. He’s the reason for the season and I want to be with Him.
What do you want to be this Christmas?
Will you join me in being present in the present, leaving our messy pasts and unknown futures in God’s hands? Can you step into the awkward situations that lead to healing, bravely choosing the path to connection over division? Who’s the real you – the one God knitted in your mother’s womb? Can you be that person this Christmas? Is there someone in your life that could do with a hug and a little light in their darkness? What would it look like to take time to be with Jesus in the business of the next few days – a church service, rereading the nativity story with your kids, or maybe five minutes of quiet just breathing Him in?
When we combine our doing with our being, taking turns to do then be, we make wonderful Christmas music; do-be-do-be-do!!
My mother was a list maker and I’ve inherited her penchant for check lists and notepads along with her hazel eyes and prominent Roman nose. I make shopping lists, to-do lists, people I need to call lists, and yes, even lists of the lists I have to make. I’ve got it bad friends.
It’s all in a veiled attempt to stay on top of things; remain in control and sane at all times. But it’s not working – life seems perpetually out of control and I hate feeling I’m constantly in danger of loosing it. What “it” is, I’m not entirely sure – I just know I can’t be without it.
The more out of control I feel, the tighter I hold on, gripping harder and harder, until one final squeeze sends life flying out of my hands like a wet bar of soap.
Sometimes I just don’t feel thankful. Call me a spoiled brat if you like, but don’t we all feel like that on occasion? Especially when life’s hard.
Despite the Hallmark sentiments and overstuffed turkeys, sometimes we can’t summon the energy, let alone the desire, to be thankful for a life that’s left us gasping for air.
We’re not grateful.
We don’t feel blessed.
We’re tired, fed up and ready for things to change.
I get it. I really do.
Yet despite these feelings we know we should be grateful. Whether it’s our mother’s voice ingrained on our psyche or our God-given moral compass, we know if we’re not grateful, we’re entitled, and that horrifies us.
You may not have a body buried under your patio or be laundering more than your undies in your washing machine, but chances are you have a little family of secrets about God hidden away somewhere.
I know I do.
Like secrets everywhere they’re quiet and corrosive. Staying hidden, even from us, their creator, they persuade us they’re an illusion with no affect on our thoughts and actions.
They’re sneaky like that.
But they are real.
When I find myself overwhelmed, anxious and scrolling through Facebook in a vain attempt to escape reality, only to come away feeling inadequate and less than, the chances are one of these secrets is beginning to itch.
God has a habit of grabbing my attention while I run, and this week was no exception.
I’ve had a rather distracted week – birthdays (yes, I’m approaching the big 5.0. at warp speed), my Dad’s here from England (with English biscuits and tea – double win), and Halloween (praise the Lord for my theatre kid’s cupboard full of costumes!), not to mention doctor’s appointments (all good – yeah!) and sick dogs (cone of shame fashion parade).
So I’ve been as distracted as a dog in a squirrel sanctuary and as I headed out on my normal running loop I noticed a neighbor was having some construction work on her house. Guys were unloading sanders and saws, ladders and lumber, in preparation for the day’s work.
Twenty minutes later, as I rounded the corner on wobbly legs, the construction guys were creating a dust cloud that billowed out of the front door and across my path.
Normally I’d close my eyes, hold my breath and keep going, but with the early morning sunlight streaming through it, the plume of dust looked magnificent.
If I’d got my hands on Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak I would have used it to disappear. Quite frankly, at that moment I’d have done anything to instantly vanish. Two hundred minds were simultaneously fixating on the intimate anatomy of bottom. What could be more embarrassing?
Believe it or not, this devastatingly, mortifying moment turned out to be good for me. I know – crazy right!
You can read what happened and why on earth this ridiculously embarrassing moment ended up being good for me over on Flourishing Today.
This week I’m excited to be guest posting over on Alisa Nicaud’s blog Flourishing Today, where I’m closing out her Overcomer Series. Alisa has brought together the stories of a number of wonderful women who have overcome various struggles in their emotions, identities, marriages and hurts. The whole series is such an encouragement and well worth scrolling back through previous posts.
Do you beat yourself up because your faith isn’t clean and tidy, or sprinkled with memorized Bible verses and blissfully free of nagging doubts?
I see other women with their worn and highlighted bibles and tell myself they obviously love God way more than me. Perhaps if I used neon pens I’d be a better Christian?
I hear others talk of seeing God move in answer to prayer, while I stare at the unmoved mountains in my life and conclude He doesn’t love me as much.
I dream of being a woman of great faith, unshakable, unflappable, with it tattooed on my heart, but I wake to a reality that disappoints. I’m a muddy, scrappy disciple, clinging to faith with chipped nails on one hand, and a large glass of doubt in the other.
Not quite a Mary or Elizabeth. Not much of a Ruth or Esther, am I?
I'm a wife, mum, dog-lover, tea-drinker, fresh air junkie and Brit in the USA. I'm also a tell-it-how-it-is writer, English Flapjack baker and cancer survivor.
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