How To Be Thankful When You’re Not

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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.

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Telling God Our Secrets.

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Come on, let’s admit it, we all keep secrets.

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.

And every itch just wants to be scratched.

 

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How to see beauty in difficult times.

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.

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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.

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Why Embarrassment was Good for Me.

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.

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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.

Enjoy friends!!

 

 

Great Faith Can Be Muddy and Scrappy.

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 do.

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?

How about you?

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How an Entomologist Taught Me to Deal with My Pain.

What if we could look objectively at the pain and hurt of life? Could we, like a wine critic, take time to reflect on its different nuances, rolling them around our palettes?

This guy here, the one with the big, black ant on his nose, and the enormous grin plastered across his face, makes me think that we might be able to do just that.

Justin Schmidt, the King of Stin

Let me introduce you to Justin Schmidt, a.k.a. The King of Stings; an entomologist from Arizona.

Having allowed himself to be stung thousands of times (yes, thousands dear friend) by over 80 of the world’s most venomous insects, he’s become famous for developing the Schmidt Pain Scale that categorizes the pain these creepy crawlies inflict.

Not only is he able to objectively dissect the agony, and rate it on a scale of 0 to 4, he adds descriptions that wouldn’t be out of place on a nice bottle of Pinot Noir. To give you an idea of quite how mad this man is, here are two of my favorite descriptions from his book The King of Stings.

When stung by the bald face hornet, he described the pain as

“Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to having your hand smashed in a revolving door.”

and the Eastern yellow jacket was

“Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine W.C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.”

Pain, either physical or emotional, seems to be as much a part of life as breathing and the Kardashians doesn’t it?

So how can crazy Dr Schmidt, with his wild pain descriptions and agony scale, help us deal with the kinds of hurt and pain inflicted by life’s ups and downs?Continue Reading

Easy Reads for When Life’s Hard

Do you ever find yourself asking questions like,

Am I the only one?

                                      Why is this happening?

                                                                                        Where are you God?

and saying things like,

Life’s not fair!

                                 Stop the world and I want to get off!

and

I’m so tired I could lie down and sleep right here in the supermarket pet aisle, snuggled between the dog biscuits and the low odor cat litter, and sleep for a week.

and perhaps you’ve yelled, to no one in particular,

I want three large scoops of mint choc chip ice cream in a waffle cone, with extra sprinkles and chocolate fudge sauce, and I want it NOW!

Or maybe that just me?

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Do you Feel Anxious When You’re Trying to Relax?

This is totally me, except I'm a brunette.

Ironically, I’ve found an unexpected hour to relax can be disastrously stressful.

Have you ever felt like that?

Your world is spinning with deadlines and demands, you’re feeling over worked and under appreciated, then you’re suddenly presented with an unexpected moment of calm; a glorious opportunity to finally relax. Yet the relaxation you so desperately crave remains tantalizingly elusive as you spin in circles, desperately trying to decide how to spend your precious free time.

In fact it’s so ironic I gave it a name: Relaxation Anxiety*

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Are You Praying for Revelation?

Have you ever prayed for God to reveal His will for you? Prayed for Him to reveal it in a ridiculously obvious way that leaves no shadow of a doubt that He’s spoken? You know, write it in the sky, or in the froth of your cappuccino?

Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that does it? But that doesn’t seem to stop us praying that He’d PLEASE just SHOW US which way to go! Which job to take, which man to date or which outfit to wear (yes, I’ve prayed that prayer!).

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Twelve years ago, my husband Al were in seminary in Oxford, England, and we were madly praying for revelation. We’d been asked to lead a church plant to Charlotte NC where a group of people wanted a church with the same DNA as our vibrant London church, and pretty much everyone believed we were the ones to lead it.

Being the couple of deep, unwavering faith that we are, we immediately said, “Are you kidding? No way! Move our three kids across the pond and start a new life? You must be joking. No. Absolutely not.”

But we did agreed to pray about it.

I’d like to say that while in deep meditative prayer, the Lord spoke in a booming, Morgan Freeman-like, audible voice. In truth, I spent two weeks frozen in perpetual indecision, turning in circles like the spinning beach ball of doom I get when my computer jams.

One moment I was sure that God wanted us to move, start a new life in the land of the free and resign ourselves to having kids that say cookie and sidewalk with a Southern drawl, not biscuit and pavement. Then, in the blink of an eye, I’d do a complete180; sure that God’s call was to stay and evangelize London’s un-churched, and raise our kids to drink tea and watch rugby.

One morning the beach ball abruptly stopped spinning.fullsizerender-8

Standing in the chaos of my daughter’s classroom, I turned to my friend Stephanie, “We’re going,” I calmly announced.

She nodded unemotionally, “Yes, yes you are.”

And that was it. No fireworks. No fanfare. No massive revelation

We went straight back to tying shoelaces and hanging up rucksacks, before I went home to talk to Al.

The only way I can describe it, is to call it a realization. I had prayed for a revelation, but what I got was a realization. A deep knowing, anchored right in my core that this was right, this was God’s plan, and this was what we would do.

IMG_6924 2Twelve years later we’re those Brits in Charlotte leading the church that serves English cream tea on their annual retreat. We love it here and so do our kids. We’ve learned the rules of American football and how to order water in an American accent so the baristas at Starbucks understand us, and I think we’re here to stay.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. We’ve had a bumpy road that has included terribly painful times of leadership and financial crisis, my cancer and most recently, Al’s burnout.

Yet it’s been at these darkest times that this deep realization of God’s call has saved me. I know that I know, that we were called here – that this is where God planted us. Many times, as I’ve been tempted to give up, head back to Blighty and the bosom of our family, this deep realization of God’s will has held me firm and strengthened me.

Are you praying for guidance, clarity or direction? Are you pleading with God to write it in the sky or send a good looking angel into your living room like He did for Mary (Luke 1:26)*? If you are, I feel your pain sweet sister.

I pray that the God who knows your heart, your dreams and your desires, gives you a deep realization of what His will is. I pray that you know, that you know, that you know. I pray that He writes it on your heart where it will not fade, so that when you enter stormy waters, it is there, anchoring you to His will.

 

* By the way, biblically there is no evidence to confirm Gabrielle’s dashing looks, but I’ve always imagine Him as the tall dark and handsome type, haven’t you?

 

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A Closed Door Can Unlock Grace

This week on Their Story, Their God, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Katie M Reid. Katie’s honest confessions of being a tightly wound woman, and the struggles and eventual joy it brings, are salve to so many of us who battle the control freak giants lurking within us. Grab a cuppa and enjoy discovering the grace in a closed door.

A Closed Door Can Unlock Grace: By Katie M Reid

She found grace behind a closed doorI was five minutes late. The door was locked and on it was a sign, “Next session starts at 11:30.” I knocked, hoping they’d still let me join the 10:30 training session. A woman cracked open the door and reiterated what the sign said.

“But I have a nursing baby at home” I explained.

“I’m sorry, that’s the rule they set.”

And the door closed.

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