Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Friends Whom I Hold Hands With

The older I get, the more I realise the importance of having friends. John Donne was absolutely right when he wrote that 'no man is an island'. We are simply not made to live in isolation.

At the same time, I'm discovering that there are different levels of friendship as well as seasons of friendship.

There are friends whom I can laugh and joke very easily with; and friends who share some common interests that I can do stuff with. Then there are ones whom I can share my inner thoughts with and open my heart to more easily than others.

In different seasons of my life, I've seen God bring different people into my circle to meet different needs. Sometimes, I'm the one with the need and sometimes, it's the other person. And sometimes, we're able to meet each others' needs at the same time. Or simply just to enjoy each others' company.

Maintaining friendships take time and effort. For some of us who prefer our own company to that of others', there needs to be a deliberate attempt to nurture friendships in order to keep them alive.

Relationships are also very fragile. As we move past the acquaintance and casual friend phases into closer friendships where conflicts inevitably arise, it is so easy to say the wrong thing or for someone to take what we say in the wrong way. Sometimes, it takes skill, time and effort for good friends to work through any recurring issues and resolve them.

I have discovered that the best remedies for resolving conflicts are honesty and humility. It requires honesty for us to examine ourselves to see if we're in the wrong, and if we are, to be humble enough to admit our faults and to ask for forgiveness. Keeping short accounts with ourselves and with one another helps us live together in peace and harmony while enjoying the different gifts that we bring into each others' lives.

Another key ingredient to maintain and nurture relationships is grace. Grace to step into the other person's shoes to see things from his or her perspective rather than viewing them narrowly from our own. Grace to allow the person room to make mistakes and to grow through them. It's the same grace that we need from others when we ourselves make mistakes. And when our ability to show grace fails, we turn to the One who is grace personified and ask for help.

There was this quote that my husband printed out a while ago: "The person who dances with you in the rain will most likely walk with you in the storm." ~ Rachel "simply me".

I like the quote and I would like to believe that it's true. Yet, as I navigate through the storms in my life, I've had friends who had previously danced with me in the rain withdraw and fade into the background when the rainstorms worsened. At the same time, however, I've discovered the deepening of some of my relationships as these friends and I stand with each other to weather through our respective storms.

We truly discover who our real friends are when we go through fire and floods.

None of us escapes the storms of life. It is those whose hands we are holding as we go through these storms that make them more tolerable. Good friends who help us laugh through our tears and find joy in the midst of tough and unpleasant circumstances.

I'm holding some human hands; hands of dear friends whom I'm so grateful for, and whose hands I will hold in their seasons of challenge.

At the same time, I'm holding onto One hand that has never let me go, no matter how rough the terrain or how wild the weather.

It is the Hand of my Heavenly Father - the One who brings the right people into my life at the right time while taking some of them away; the One who makes good come out of every adversity and who meets my every need. The One who will never forget me because He has me inscribed on the palm of His hand- not just my name, but all of me!

I know I am safe because I know whose Hands I hold.

".... Yet I will not forget you. See I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands."
~ Isaiah 49:15,16 ~

Friday, 27 September 2013

Walking Down Memory Lane

The year was 1984.

It was our final year at St Mary's Secondary School, an all girls' school established by the missionaries in the 1840's. We were fifth formers sitting for our major public exam at the end of the year. The giant hurdle to clear was known as the Malaysian Certificate of Education, which is equivalent to O Level Cambridge Exams.

It was a year of mixed feelings.

Feelings of pride that we were finally at the top level of our school with younger ones looking up to us for guidance and instruction; awe and admiration reflected in some of their eyes in the same way that ours used to shine for some of our seniors.

Then there were feelings of excitement that we would be going across the road to our brother school, St Thomas' Secondary School, to pursue our A levels. Finally, a chance to be studying with boys, an experience which had been denied us for the past 10 years or so of our lives as students!

And last but not least, feelings of sadness at the thought of leaving our beloved school, our teachers and some of our friends who would not be joining the mass exodus to the school across the road.

Thanks to Facebook, I recently got connected to a number of my ex-schoolmates from twenty-nine years ago! What an amazing invention the internet is!

Even as I'm writing this, my dear friends from our memorable yester-years are busy planning our thirtieth-year reunion scheduled to be held early next year, which, unfortunately, I won't be able to attend.

Some of us had known each other since we started primary school together, building memories since the very first day of school when a few burst into tears as our parents prepared to leave. I wasn't one of them, but then, I had my cousin to start school with me, so I guess that helped!

There were pleasant memories of fun, joy, and laughter when during recess, we played with five stones or seven stones on the ground, or with skipping ropes made from elastic bands - our children would find that hard to imagine now with the advent of the computer era! The tricks we played on one particular teacher we didn't like that had us in stitches - stink bombs which we proclaimed to be smells wafting from the chemistry lab in the secondary block and what not! Oh, and there was Touche and Dum Dum, our two pet turtles which we had to take turns to look after. They may have been cute to look at, but the odour that we had to endure when it was time to clean their aquarium? That was another thing altogether......pee-ew!

Then there were less pleasant times when a few unfortunate ones had to stand on a chair in front of the principal's office with a placard of the crime committed dangling from the necks as punishment. The anxious moments when we were called to pay a compulsory visit to the school dental nurse; one at a time, as if going to our execution, with not even a friend as a companion to hold our cold, clammy hands!

More memories were made as we became teenagers and moved on to the next block of buildings where the secondary school still stands today. Or at least I believe they are still there!

I can still smell the pungent odour coming from the toilets even before we entered them. A classmate decided one day that she would try to hold her breath in there while she hurried through her routine. Alas! Her breath ran out before she was done and as she gasped for air to fill her screaming lungs, she almost passed out from the acrid fumes! It is my fervent hope that the deplorable condition of the toilets would have improved by this day and age.

Another memory that stood out was the time my class was dissecting frogs that were in chloroform-induced comas in the science lab. A few days after the poor dismembered amphibians had been discarded, we were startled to hear a cacophony of what sounded like wailing frogs! No kidding! That was one sure eerie experience that brought out the goosebumps! I wonder if any of us went on to become medical doctors or surgeons after that. It was during that dissection that I knew I wasn't cut out to be one!

The best memories shared with my dear friends were ones that included unrestrained and uncontrollable laughter. Not polite little chuckles, mind you. I'm talking about loud, unladylike belly laughs that had us doubled up in sheer ecstasy and agony all in the same breath, and with some having to cross their legs because they felt the sudden urge to make a dash for that awful place which we all wished we didn't have to frequent! The worst was when that happened in the library as we had to stifle those rumblings from deep within that were threatening to get us more of the librarian's attention than we would've liked to!

Ahh.... the innocence of youth, relatively untainted by life's many twists and turns with all its complications, sorrow and heartache tangled in the sea of love, joy and beauty.... If I had the ability, opportunity, and courage to turn back time, it would be because of genuine, sincere friends that I've found along my journey who would stand by each other not just through joy-filled moments, but gut-wrenching, heart-rending ones, too. And memories like the ones my fellow Marians and I had made in our teenage years, or the ones my flatmates and I had shared in our student years after high school....

With feelings of sentiment, I wrote a poem in 1984 when my heart ached at the thought of leaving school. I'm so glad I've kept it after all these years. So, here's to the Marians, Class(es) of '84:

The Beauty of Friendship

True friendship is so beautiful
But rare....
It is like flowers blooming

Joining school, leaving school
Days pass, years go by
But our friendship remains
And forever it will lie

Fondly will I recall
Our school days together
Having fun....
As the years gather

Forget me not, dear friends
Let not the memories of our friendship go
And the lovely times we've spent together
Not so long ago....


Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Taking Ownership

[The boy cowered in fright as his father lashed out at his mother, both in words and in action. The slap across his mother's tear-stained face resounded across the room to where the boy tried to stay hidden behind the sofa.

"I wish mum and dad would stop fighting...... I wish I was old enough to leave home....... I wish.... I wish I had never been born into this family......", the boy thought wistfully.

Fast forward twenty years, the boy is now a full grown man with a family of his own and a good job. His wife, too, has a full-time job and they struggle with balancing their careers and bringing up their two year-old son. As much as he loves his family, he doesn't understand why he is so short-tempered with them sometimes. Oh, he tries hard to be patient, but there is always this temptation to lash out at them the way his father did towards him and his mother. He wonders if he's becoming like his father.....]

The above scenario may be fictitious, but a lot of us have seen and heard enough of this sort of replication in families to know that history tends to repeat itself.

In fact, if we're honest with ourselves, we can even see how we seem to do to our own families the very thing(s) that our parents did to us which either frightened or annoyed us.

Sometimes, it's easier just to blame our parents for teaching us the wrong things. Or to blame our spouses, partners or friends for causing us to react in the way that we did which we're by no means proud of, but which we may not be willing to admit.

While working through the pain of my past, I've come to realise that the only way to overcome some of the things that I don't like about myself is to take ownership of them.

Taking ownership of our weaknesses and circumstances means, first of all, to acknowledge these very things.

It requires us to be honest with ourselves, with God, and even with others.

It means acknowledging that we don't like certain aspect(s) of ourselves or the circumstances that we're in, but that we accept the responsibility that we now have to get the help that we need in order to get to a better place.

It means to stop blaming others and to forgive them for modelling the wrong thing to us. It may also mean that we need God's help to reach that place of forgiveness in letting go of the hurts of the past.

Taking ownership may not seem fair, as it means relinquishing the wrong-doings of the people who have wounded us.

However, taking ownership stops us from hurting ourselves and our own families as we take the step to cut ourselves and our descendants off from the weaknesses and struggles of our forefathers which have been passed down from generation to generation.

It is a vital step towards experiencing the joy and freedom that God has intended for us and our loved ones.

The recovery process that begins with taking ownership may not happen overnight, but it is well worth every effort that is made.

You and I deserve the gift of taking ownership.

This is the gift that God is offering us today!

"For He says, 'In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." ~ 2 Corinthians 6:2 ~

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Loving Ourselves

Have you ever noticed how praise and encouragement can change a person's behaviour more effectively than criticism?

How a child's face lights up when praise is given while she unfolds and blooms like a flower?

As opposed to criticisms which cause the child's countenance and demeanour to wilt like a flower in dire need of water?

Yet some of us struggle to apply this same principle to ourselves.

Instead of giving ourselves a pat on the shoulder for the things we do right, we beat ourselves up for the things we do wrong or which we fail to do perfectly.

I've discovered that there is a huge difference between humility and self-deprecation.

Humility is a virtue which adopts an attitude of lowliness; of meekness and submission in preference of someone's opinion or authority over our own.

Self-deprecation takes that attitude to a lower level and turns it derogatorily to the undervaluing and belittling of oneself. Problems arise when self-criticism leads to self-rejection and self-hatred.

Running ourselves down gives no glory to the One who created us with such intricate love, pride and joy.

When we think negatively of ourselves or treat ourselves unkindly, we dishonour God who has made us in His image.

We are saying to Him that He has made a mistake in creating us the way we are (with our different personalities and characters), or the way we look (our appearances).

It is God's intention that we 'nourish' and 'cherish' ourselves in the same manner that He nourishes and cherishes the church (Ephesians 5:29).

His second commandment says that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

It is only when we are able to love ourselves in a healthy way (not the self-centred, arrogant kind of way) that we are able to love others in the way that Jesus asks us to.

We can only give out of what we have.

When I am critical of myself, I will also tend to be critical of others.

When I show grace to myself, I will also be more gracious towards others.

When I am able to love myself, I will have more love for other people.

It is time to stop beating up God's child.

And time to receive the healing love of our Heavenly Father.

To allow our head knowledge of His love for mankind to become a heart experience of His love for us individually and personally.

To let Him remove the sting from the negative experiences of the past, bind up our wounds, heal our broken hearts, and mend our broken dreams.

He really does love us.....so very, very much.....

He has a wonderful future all planned out for us; a purpose for us to fulfil that is beyond our imagination.

And because He loves us so much, we can love ourselves, too!

"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." ~ Romans 8:38 ~

"... Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you." ~ Jeremiah 31:3 ~

"For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church." ~ Ephesians 5:29 ~

Thursday, 11 July 2013

It's A New Day!

Our past can be filled with so many disappointments, hurts, and regrets that each time we go down memory lane, we come out more miserable than happy; more downcast than encouraged.

And we can be so stuck in those memories of pain that we find it difficult to move forward.

On my journey to wholeness, I have found it essential to be honest with myself and with God, to grieve my losses, to make peace with my past, and to let go.

To forgive and to be forgiven. And to make reconciliations where reconciliations are possible.

To declare that each day is a new day to begin afresh in God.

A clean slate to write on where yesterday's mistakes don't count.

A brand new day to cut off the old and embrace the new.

To identify the lies that have kept me in bondage and held me captive.

To stop thinking and behaving in the old ways that have gotten me stuck in the wilderness for far too long.

To learn new ways of thinking and behaving that will enable me to step out of that self-prolonged wilderness and into a new peace; a new joy; a new ability to love myself and others.

To stop beating up this beautiful creation whom God loves without reserve  - sometimes the hardest thing to do is to forgive ourselves.

To refuse to live with regrets and to let go of things that threaten to take away this new peace and joy that I've found in Him.

To remember the happy memories and purposefully push aside the sad ones.

To receive God's love and grace for today and to depend on His strength when mine is not enough.

To trust Him for a better tomorrow if today doesn't go as planned.

To live in the moment and cherish the blessings of each day.

Trusting that God will restore all that we had lost and bless our latter days more than our beginning.

So let's take courage and arise, for today is a new day!

"So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten...."
~ Joel 2:25 ~

"Instead of your shame you shall have double honour. And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs."
~ Isaiah 61:7 ~

"Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning...."
~ Job 42:12 ~

"The end of a thing is better than its beginning...."
~ Ecclesiastes 7:8 ~

Monday, 1 July 2013

When You Are Ready

I used to be able to speak in front of a group of people.

In fact, I've shared in a couple of small churches before as well as in front of the students in the university campus in my hometown where I used to teach.

But after the burnout/breakdown which the mental health professionals simply refer to as anxiety and/or depression, I discovered that even the simplest task could pose to be a challenge, let alone speaking in front of people. I remember writing about my frustrations and disappointment with myself for not being able to do what I used to be capable of.

While looking through my journal the other day, I found this entry dated a year ago. It was written in the form of a blog but I didn't have a blog site then to publish it:

[Life in the 21st century has become like a frantic rat race. I wonder if God is ever in a hurry. Somehow, I can't picture Him rushing from one thing to another, getting all frazzled and flustered in the process like some of us do.

I read somewhere once that God lives in eternity; a place which is not bound by time.

We are the impatient ones; not God.

In life, we make mistakes and we take a fall from time to time. Sometimes, the fall is a particularly bad one and we need to take time to recover. Time to heal on the inside. Time to recover from exhaustion. Time to take baby steps before learning to run again.

Trying to rush the healing process can be counter-productive. It's like slitting a cocoon to help the butterfly emerge faster. Sadly, the butterfly is not ready and will die before its time.

I used to be able to speak in front of a group of people. When will I be able to do that again? I wonder.

When you are ready...... comes a whisper.

But what if I can never find the boldness to do that again? Because right now, I don't think that's ever going to happen.

You will.......

Immediately, Phil 4:13 comes to mind: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

But I don't feel strong at all. I feel the complete opposite. So very weak in every aspect.....

That's the best place to be..... for my power will be made manifest in your weakness.....

It is not by my own effort. Nor by my own strength. But by His Spirit to bring forth the breakthrough. “... Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)

It is not my ability, but rather my availability. I only need to take the step that I am confident enough to take. God will supply the strength and courage that I need to take the next step.

One step at a time.......one day at a time.

When you are ready......

Eventually, I'll get there.]

And guess what?? 

Last week, I did get there! I actually shared in front of a group of people! It was the first time in years! Okay, so there were only ten of us present that night which wasn't exactly a a sizeable number. Nevertheless, it was still a breakthrough for me!

The best thing was that I wasn't stressing about it. Mainly because my husband was scheduled to share and I thought this was as good a time as any to see if I could do it; he was prepared to take over if my nerves failed me. It felt so good to be able to do it and I was stoked!

Also, my conviction that God is good and that He's not responsible for everything that happens to us had given me the courage to share this very topic.

The coolest thing that I've discovered about God is that He is never in a hurry. He has never rushed me into doing what I don't feel capable of. I've experienced such graciousness and gentleness from God that I've never known before.

What seems like a waste of time is time necessary for Him to do a deeper work of healing in me before the release of grace and boldness comes to take the next step.

Through it all, He faithfully showers me with His love and acceptance while affirming and encouraging me with loving reminders of His faith in me.

When I think I am ready, He helps me take the next step.

And if I fall flat on my face, He helps me get up and gently reminds me this:

Success is not measured by how well you've done a job. When you have given something a go, that, too, is a measure of success.

Failure is not the opposite of success. You only fail when you refuse to try. 

So don't be afraid to try. I'm there to catch you if you fall.

Take my hand and take the next step. I will help you get to where you're supposed to be........

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord.” ~ Psalm 27:14

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Our God Is A Good God

Have you ever received comments like the following: God is allowing you to go through this because He loves you and He thinks you can handle it? Or: He hand-picked you to be parents of a special needs child because He thinks you are special and He knows you can do it better than others?

Worse still, my husband and I once received a comment that went like this: "There must be sin in either of your lives or your ancestors' lives that is causing your son's autism."

This last comment along with other similar types of theology made me come under condemnation and kept me in bondage for a certain period of time in my life. That was the time when I tried to examine our lives for every possible sin to be confessed before God. It was a very tedious process, not to mention how limiting it became as I checked and double-checked myself for every thought, word, action, and intent of the heart. Well, if my son's autism was truly the result of sins in our lives, he should have been healed by the time I had finished all my self-examinations and confessions, including every possible sin that my ancestors before me might have committed!

As for comments like the first two that are meant to be encouraging, I also found them rather difficult to receive. Simply because it goes against my understanding of a loving God.

The loving God that I know is a Father who won't give his son a stone when he asks for bread, or a serpent when he asks for a fish (Matt 7:9,10).

How does giving me an autistic son be proof of God's love for me?

For quite some time now, I have been questioning the idea that suffering in the form of syndromes, disorders, sicknesses and diseases comes from God. For my entire Christian life, I have accepted God's sovereignty in all things, including suffering. This helps me deal with the question of why some people die young or some go through more suffering than others. Even though I have accepted that God's sovereignty is something to be revered rather than questioned, it has never completely sat well with me that God causes or allows us to go through suffering such as these in order to make us better people.

Just recently, I was led to a scripture which seems to support my belief that suffering comes from living in a fallen, sinful world that operates on the principles of sowing and reaping rather than from God. It has made me so excited that I simply must share it here!

"You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for He forgave all our sins. He cancelled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross." ~ Colossians 2:13,14 (NLT) ~

Isaiah 53:5 tells us that when Christ died on the cross in our place, "... He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins... beaten so we could be whole... [and] whipped so we could be healed." In other words, there are two sides to the cross: one side is for the forgiveness and redemption of our sins; the other side is for the healing and wholeness of our bodies, minds, souls, and spirits.

John 3:17 says "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." The word 'saved' is the word sozo in the original Greek text which means 'to heal, preserve, do well, save (self), be made whole' (Strong's Concordance Greek Dictionary Entry #4982). This confirms that Jesus died on the cross for a two-fold purpose: 1. the forgiveness of our sins; and 2. the healing and restoration of our whole being.

So, in my understanding, Colossians 2:14 is saying that God cancelled every charge against us by nailing it to the cross when Jesus was crucified. This means that every sin and sickness that causes pain, sorrow and suffering has been nailed to the cross. Which also means that if God took the trouble to nail every suffering to the cross, why would He give it to us in the first place?

To me, it seems logical to believe that suffering doesn't come from God. God can't give us what He doesn't have. I don't think He has autism, so He can't give us autism. Neither does he have cancer or any other diseases that lead to death, so He can't give us those either.

If I believe that suffering comes from God or that God allows it, then it goes against the very nature of who God is and His good intentions, plans and purposes for our lives. It nullifies what Jesus did when He died for us on the cross.

Furthermore, if I believe that God is out to punish me by causing or allowing sufferings so as to make me a better person, I will not be able to develop a secure relationship with Him. I will be fearful all the time and constantly examining myself to see if I have sinned today and to make sure I confess every single sin to avoid His rebuke and punishment. I've done all that and it didn't get me anywhere. If anything, it made me even more introspective and sin-conscious. Instead, when I focus on the goodness of God and His gentle, kind, and loving nature, I experience the love, joy and peace that He offers us. So, it serves me better to believe that God is good, all the time. That He loves us passionately and wants the best for us, no matter what our circumstances tell us.

The Bible says we are to give thanks in all things (I Thess 5:18), not for all things. This tells me that God is not responsible for everything that we go through.

Nevertheless, I do believe that when we go through sufferings, God is able to help us endure them, provide the relief that we need, and sometimes even miraculously deliver us from them. He is such a big God that He can make good come out of adverse situations, which gives us hope and provides the platform for our faith to grow.

Keeping my hope and faith anchored in a God who loves me unconditionally and who wants what's best for me keeps my heart soft and tender towards Him. Instead of turning away from Him and blaming Him for my son's autism as well as the unpleasant things that happen in my life, I want to defend Him and call on Him when I need help.

I do not have the answers to a lot of questions in life. Like why some people get healed while others don't.

But what I do know that is that whatever I choose to believe needs to draw me closer to the One who alone can give me what I need to navigate through the challenges of life. Like peace in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty, hope in the depths of despair, and joy in the threshold of sorrow and pain. It is vital for me to keep my heart free from being offended by Him because He has failed at times to answer my prayer on my terms. I need to focus on what He has done rather than what He hasn't done. He has shown Himself to be ever present and faithful during my times of need in the past. And I know He will continue to do so because He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

I choose to believe that our God is a good God; that He has wonderful plans for our lives and amazing things ahead of us. That even when we make mistakes and make messes of our lives, He can turn things around and bring good out of our messes.

This belief sets me free to expect and receive more of God's love and goodness.

It fills me with hope to believe that the best is yet to come!

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! For his mercy endures forever."
~ Psalm 136:1 ~

"For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endures to all generations." ~ Psalm 100:5 ~

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good...." ~ Psalm 34:8 ~

Thursday, 30 May 2013

More Than Meets The Eye

The story of the prodigal or lost son is a story that has hugely impacted my understanding of God's love for us. Interestingly, this story was recorded only in the book of Luke (Luke 15:11-32) and nowhere else in the other gospels.

It never ceases to amaze me the unconditional love that the father in that story has for his wayward son: the younger son who demands his inheritance before it is time for it to be distributed, and then squanders it all away in reckless and sinful living. When the son is finally brought so low that he is even envious of the food that the pigs are eating, he realizes that his father's servants are better fed than him. In deep shame and humility, he goes back to his father, intending to ask for forgiveness and to be taken on as a hired hand.

This is where it gets me. The father apparently has been looking out for his son day after day, hoping that his son will come back to him. From afar, he sees his son coming. Filled with love and compassion, he literally runs to his son. I mean, there is no thought of  'Hmm....let's see why he's back and if he's sorry for leaving the way he did.' Instead, the father falls on his son's neck and kisses him before the son says anything. He then asks his servants to bring the best robe to put on him, a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.  And finally, the fatted calf is to be killed for a feast to celebrate the return of the son who was dead and is alive again, who was lost and is now found.

How many of us have done the same thing as the prodigal son in doing things our way rather than His? Or when things don't go the way we want them to, we struggle with frustration and disappointment. Finally, after we have tried everything in our own strength, we come crawling back to our Heavenly Father to humbly seek His forgiveness and to ask Him to help us.

And what does God do? He sees us approaching His throne from afar, runs to us, embraces us and kisses us. No questions asked. Only grace, total forgiveness, love and restoration. When we see how willingly and completely He accepts us back unto Himself, remorse and gratitude pours forth from our hearts all at the same time. Our confession of having done wrong gushes out of our mouths not because we fear He will not forgive us until we do so, but because we are so overwhelmed by His love and willingness to forgive whether we do so or not.

Our Heavenly Father wipes our slates clean and keeps no record of our wrong-doings. He is ever willing to give us a new start with fresh provisions and the assurance of His absolute love and acceptance.

As for the older brother, he is in a way as lost as his younger brother. Not in the  irresponsible and prodigal ways of his younger brother, but in his inability to welcome his brother back. When he discovers that his father is throwing a party to celebrate the return of his younger brother, he reacts in hurt and anger. Why? His younger brother had deserted them all earlier to pursue his own happiness while he, the older more responsible son, continued to serve their father at home. Now, his brother has returned and his father has killed the fatted calf for a feast to celebrate the brother's homecoming. For all that he's done for his father, he has never even been given a young goat to feast with his friends.

I can totally understand the jealousy and sense of injustice that the older brother feels. To me, his feelings are completely natural and I would also struggle if I were in his shoes. However, as justifiable as I think those feelings are, that does not make them right. The story goes on to say that the older brother tells his father how he feels (I'm so glad he did!) and this is how his father answers him. Notice that there is no hint of disapproval of his reaction in his father's reply.

"Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found." (Luke 15:31,32)

This is what I believe the father is saying in my own words: Son, your loyalty and devotion to me has not gone unnoticed. I so deeply value you that all I have is yours. Your brother's return is something that needs to be celebrated because he has recognised the error of his ways and has come home to make amends. Our rejoicing doesn't diminish your value and standing in my eyes. So, come and celebrate your brother's return with me and be secure in my love for you. I have more than enough for both of you!

God has certainly more than enough for each of us, His children. We never need to fear any lack or be jealous of those who seem to be more favoured than us. Or those who have done more things to grieve the Father but yet restored without a word when they come back to Him. For those who have been diligently serving the Lord all their lives and sometimes wonder if their faithfulness has even been noticed, this parable tells us that God does notice. He notices that the faithful ones are always with him, and he promises that all He has is theirs.

The younger brother needs God's forgiveness, love and restoration in the things that he has done wrong. Likewise, the older brother needs the same thing from God in his self-righteousness and the wrong attitude(s) of his heart. As much as the older brother is judging his younger brother for the wrong things he has done, he, too, needs the grace and forgiveness that his father wants him to show towards his brother.

Each time when I come before God in repentance of something that I have done wrong, whether it is in word or action or a wrong attitude of the heart, I feel like the prodigal son being embraced by his father in complete forgiveness, love and restoration. I know that His forgiveness of me is not dependent on my confession, for He had already forgiven all of my sins when Jesus died on the cross more than two thousand years ago. I confess because doing so makes me feel restored to right standing with God. It's more for my sake than His. It opens the doorway for me to become intimate with my Father again. It also keeps me humble and makes me value my relationship with Him instead of taking Him for granted.

In addition, this story reminds me that like everyone else, I am a sinner saved by grace. If I have any wrong attitude in my heart, I am no better than someone who has committed a crime that is worthy of imprisonment or the death sentence. As much as I dislike being judged by others, I, too, have judged them. I am so in need of the Father's love and grace to help me overcome the sins I struggle with. My challenge is to show others the same love and grace that the Father showers me with, especially those who have wounded me. Without His help, this can be an impossible feat at times.

Yet, I believe this is the way God designed it. He knows the Christian walk is an impossible one. This is why He makes the provision of His help available to us. It is His intent to make us dependent on Him. To acknowledge that we cannot do things in our own strength, only in His (Phil 4:13). And that without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

There is so much to this parable than meets the eye. It is not just about one lost son; the other one is equally lost but in a different way. As I reflect on this story, I find that there is so much to ponder over and so much to learn from.

There are truly many treasures to be discovered in God's Word!

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

When I Think God Says Wait

I love Holley's blog posts. I really do. They're so insightful, affirming and encouraging. I've found them to speak lovingly and powerfully into my life many times.

This week, Holley has a few questions for us to answer: What part of your dream feels the riskiest? Have you ever had people misunderstand or disagree with your dream? What do you do when your dream is scary or when others don’t support you?

There are two parts to my dream, which is to write. One is to start a blog, which I have done and which I hope to continue. The other is to write and publish a book about my journey.

For me, the riskiest part about my dream so far is the fear of being judged when I tell my story. Not just for me, but also for my family because this is their story, too. I will need to make sure they are comfortable with the contents of the manuscript before it can be turned into a book. My present draft has failed to meet this main criterion, so I've got to do more work on it.

Letting my son go had been made doubly hard by the fact that the act of doing so had caused the resurfacing of previous trauma that I had experienced in my early childhood. I thought I had dealt sufficiently with the trauma in the past, but apparently there were deeper layers (like the proverbial onion) to be worked through and healed. Friends who didn't completely understand what I was going through tried to help me heal from my grief according to their time frame rather than mine. As a result, I've found it simpler to withdraw into my own little world where God is my confidant, counsellor, and comforter.

Deep within me, however, is the desire to tell my story. Not to blame the people who have wounded me, misjudged me, or rejected me, but as a monument of the steps I am taking towards owning all that had happened to me in my life, and choosing to see every adversity as an opportunity for God to bring good out of each situation. In the small, limited ways that I am able to, I want to contribute and to make a difference.

Like Paul, it is my goal to be able to say at the end of the day: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Tim 4:7). And to hear God say in return: "...Well done, good and faithful servant.... Enter into the joy of your Lord." (Matt 25:21)

Maybe my dream of producing such a book is meant to be tested by time. Maybe God intends for me to experience greater healing before it makes its way out there. This is what I tell myself to keep the dream alive.

For now, I am grateful just to be alive. To be able to keep house for my family, and to write a post on my blog every now and then. After all that I've been through, I am grateful I'm still able to stand. And smile.......and laugh.....

To take courage and draw strength from scriptures such as the following:

"We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."
~ 2 Cor 4:8,9 ~

"...My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
~ 2 Cor 12:9 ~

Maybe one day the second part of my dream will come true. When that happens, I know it will truly be by God's grace, in His time, and for His glory.

Linking up with:

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Victims Of Circumstances

Yesterday, I read a powerful and encouraging blog written by one of the contributing bloggers on not-alone-parents. Greg Lucas wrote about the murder-suicide incident involving a mother and her adult autistic son that happened last year in San Jose, CA.

Overcome by the overwhelming challenge of caring for her 22 year-old son, Elizabeth Hodgins was finally driven to shoot George to death before turning the gun on herself.

Reading about this story reminded me of a similar incident that happened more than a decade ago here in NZ. In 1997, Janine Albury-Thomson strangled her 17-year old autistic daughter to death after she tried unsuccessfully to get Casey to jump off a bridge.

There were other killings of children with disabilities all around the world, including 6 year-old Charles Blais in Canada, 4 year-old Daniel Corby in San Diego, and 12 year-old Ajit Singh in the UK.

Such stories of devastation and horror bring on a myriad of emotions among people worldwide. There are those that sympathize with the mothers who were driven to such a state of desperation as to commit the unthinkable; those that totally oppose mercy killing; and those in between.

Being mum to an autistic teenager, I'm one of those who have had the opportunity to experience first-hand the bittersweet challenges of parenting a child with special needs. There is joy in caring for a child whose childish innocence remains untainted throughout his growing up years. Joseph's delightful smiles and contagious laughter were what kept me going when I didn't think I could make it through yet another day. However, words cannot accurately describe the exhaustion, fear, desperation, hopelessness, and despair that we parents of special needs children can experience.

As I read the stories of these horrific killings, my heart goes out to the families involved. These are tragedies of circumstances; senseless to some, yet completely understandable to others. Having experienced terrible guilt, heart-wrenching pain, and deep darkness after my son left home, I cannot imagine what these mothers who have killed their children went through or who may still be going through. To me, the people involved are all victims of circumstances.

It is so easy to judge others by what they do based on our own knowledge and experience. The question is whether our knowledge and experience are sufficient for us to cast the first stone (John 8:7).

Until we have worn the shoes and walked the path of the one whom we're about to cast the stone at, we'll do well to put that stone down at the feet of Jesus.

I may have walked the path of parenting a child with autism. But I have not walked the exact same path that Elizabeth Hodgins had. Or that Janine Albury-Thomson had.

A couple of years ago, a member of a life group from our church committed suicide. The incident brought on a rather heated discussion among the life group members about how this might have been prevented if they had known how depressed or desperate this person must have been feeling. There was also a comment about how this person could do such a thing.

We all need God to help us love one another as He loves us, and to extend to others the same grace that we need others to extend to us.

We need Him to give us the compassion and wisdom to encourage someone who is hurting badly.  Or to gather others to come alongside someone who is going through a horrendous time to offer support, prayer, hope, and encouragement. Or to point them to people or professionals who can help if we're unable to do anything.

Because you never know if you could be the one whom God uses to prevent the tragic loss of yet another life, be it a murder or a suicide.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Pay It Forward

A few years ago when unrelenting stress finally got the upper hand and rendered me unable to function, a lovely lady from church came alongside to walk me over the hump.

I had no idea what was happening to me, except that everything seemed insurmountable and I felt completely overwhelmed. Crying was the only thing that I seemed to be able to do with ease.

My newly-found friend explained to me that I was suffering from burnout and that I needed to go and see the doctor who would most likely prescribe some medication. She arranged for another friend to take me and recommended that I took some time away from my family so that I could rest. She understood the extra demands that having a special needs child had on me. The following week, she checked to see how I was doing and continued to do so in the ensuing weeks.

Each time we met or spoke over the phone, Chris would remind me of how much God loved me and taught me how to rest in the knowledge of that love. She patiently listened as I poured out the deep pain that was piercing my heart. There was no judgment; no condemnation. Before long, I was telling her all that my heart contained which I needed to release. Along with a listening ear, there was complete acceptance, grace, affirmation and love, with lots of prayer and encouragement. It was like encountering God in human form!

When I later told Chris how much I owed her for all that she was investing in me, all she said was: Someday you'll do the same for someone who needs it.

At the end of last year, a friend who has an autistic son rang me up late one night in a panic and asked me for help with something. Early the next morning, she rang me again in tears. Her husband was overseas and she didn't know what to do.

Having been down the road of stress and burnout, I recognized that my friend was going through the same experience. I was able to advise her what to do in the same way that Chris had done for me. I also took her to see the service provider for our sons to ask for more support during this time. Every week until her husband returned, I rang my friend to see how she was doing, encouraged her and prayed for her. Even now, as she and her husband are exploring options for full-time care for their son, my husband and I are the ones they turn to for advice and support.

The concept of paying it forward is a powerful one. I've had the privilege being a part of such an experience in two other instances. 

One was the gift of an old piano when we first set up our home in the city we now live in. When we were able to buy a newer one, we passed that piano on to another family, whom we requested to pass on to the next family if and when they bought their own. That old piano has recently been gifted to another family in our life group. It may be old but it can still make music. The gift goes on!

The second pay-it-forward gift that we received was a two-night getaway for my husband and myself. The couple who gifted that to us were themselves the recipients of a similar gift and wanted to pass it on. We had likewise paid that forward to another couple who in turn had passed it on.

Whenever we do something for others, the concept of paying it forward will help us do so without expecting anything in return from the people whom we are blessing. Somehow, the blessings will come back through other sources, and sometimes in the ways we least expect.

Most importantly, we know we are honouring the One who gave us the greatest gift in the first place - the gift of His Son who in turn gives us life and everything we need through His death and resurrection.

And when I do something that reminds me of what others have done for me, I thank God for them and say a prayer of blessing over them.

May the gift of God's love get transferred from our hearts through our words and actions to the hearts of others!

"And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'"
~ Matthew 25:40 ~

Linking up with:

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Power of Encouragement

I can so relate to Holley's post entitled "Why you need to be recharged more than you realize".

In her post, Holley writes: "When Jesus in you touches someone else in a meaningful way power goes out from you too. And that is why you need rest and to be recharged more than you realize. You might have a heartfelt conversation that encourages a friend. Or you could show tenderness with one of your children that requires an extra measure of grace. Perhaps you navigate through a difficult ethical situation at work and manage to make a difference. In all of those, God’s power has gone out from you. Yet instead of realizing that we berate ourselves for feeling tired. We believe we should be able to do it all, all the time.  That’s not the way we’re created. And when we live without recognizing that power is going out from us we wind up exhausted and burned out."

Just last week, my family and I were having a discussion about the differences between extroverts and introverts. Extroverts are outgoing and bubbly as they get energized through meeting and talking to all kinds of people. They attract people everywhere they go and appear to be the more favoured personality type in Western cultures. Introverts, on the other hand, find it a challenge to be comfortable in a crowd and prefer to be with just one or two others. It can be draining for them to spend lengthy time talking to people, so having sufficient alone time to get recharged is crucial for an introvert.

Being an introvert myself, I realize there are many things that I used to do which depleted energy that didn't get sufficiently replaced. Now, I am learning to pace myself by interlacing draining activities with ones that I find pleasurable and energizing.

It is so important to develop self-awareness, to discover what makes us tick and how we function best under different circumstances, and to learn to capitalize on our strengths while drawing on God's. We can learn to accept our limitations and weaknesses without being ashamed of them by turning them into opportunities for God to work and shine through them.

God has a wonderful plan and purpose for each and everyone of us that He wants to help us fulfil. Yes, even for some of us who have become so weary that we doubt there's anything we can achieve. Or some of us who have a burning passion or have started working towards a dream and get discouraged when obstacles get in the way or when God says wait.

For those of us who struggle with insecurities, we need to look to Him for our value and worth because ours may have somehow gotten warped by past unpleasant experiences or hurtful words that have left wounds and scars.

Because no matter what you may think about yourself, God sees you as His beautiful creation with a wealth of giftings, talents, and resources that your sphere of influence needs. There is no one like you or who can do what you alone can do. You reflect an aspect of God that no one else does. You have the power to show love, bring hope and touch lives. We need your uniqueness, your gifts, your input. We are not complete without you.

As you keep your eyes on God, He will help you see the beauty that He sees in you and why He believes in you.

He celebrates you for the way that He made you and longs to help make those wealth of treasures that He has laid within you shine so others can share in their beauty and glory.

You are beautiful.

You are amazing.

You are loved!

So, let's keep on keeping on, trample on our fears, and reach for the stars.

Together, we can do it!

"Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward."
~ Hebrews 10:35 ~

Linking up with:

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A Night To Remember

Last Sunday night, my husband was given tickets for our family to attend a live match of the ANZ Championship 2013 between LG Mystics (Auckland team) and Central Pulse (Wellington team). These series of netball matches pit the top five regional teams from New Zealand against the top five regional teams from Australia. 

Before the event was scheduled to begin at 7pm, my husband, daughter and I were to meet the Relationship Manager of his company's bank for dinner at a restaurant-cum-bar nearby the stadium. It was a pleasure to meet our lovely hostess for the evening, Sharon, as well as her other clients.

What we had thought would be a fun and interesting evening turned out to be more than we had bargained for, with a totally unexpected twist right at the end!

We ordered our drinks at the counter and proceeded to our table to decide what we wanted to have for dinner. My husband and I both ordered the good ole Kiwi fish and chips while our daughter opted for a beef burger with chips.

As we were waiting for our meals to arrive, we chatted with Sharon and her client friend, Fiona, who both played in the same netball team. My husband nipped across to another table to meet Sharon's other client and his family.

We chatted and waited. Then we waited some more and hoped our meals would arrive soon so we could make it to the game in good time. Sharon went to make some enquiries and was asked if either my husband or I could change our order as the restaurant had run out of fish. My husband promptly changed his order to honey BBQ pork ribs and chips, bless him!

Eventually, Sharon's order made its appearance first at our table. Fiona's burger followed shortly after, and Sharon's client and his family at the other table soon received their meals. However, the three of us continued to wait.

Finally, one of the waitresses came over to us and apologised for the delay, explaining that there had been a mix-up with the orders and it would take another ten minutes or so. Furthermore, the mix-up meant that they had totally run out of the fish they usually used for fish and chips. So, I would have to settle for something that sounded like bar fish. I had no idea what to expect!

Another ten minutes of waiting meant we wouldn't have enough time to eat if we wanted to be in time for the game. By now, we had waited a full hour and the others had all finished their meals. So we asked for our food to be packed to go. Hopefully, the stadium would allow us to bring in outside food.

I looked thoughtfully at my handbag and it seemed big enough to accommodate the food if the restaurant could pack it in small containers and put them inside a plastic bag to prevent any spillage. Maybe we could sneak the food in at the entrance.

Alas, the containers were BIG! I might be able to fit one and a half of them in my handbag, if that was possible. And believe it or not, the restaurant didn't have plastic bags! Not a single one! Neither could they provide us with plastic cutlery. At best, we could borrow their real cutlery which we would need to return later.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing - the restaurant had neither plastic bags nor takeaway cutlery! It was hard to remain calm when we were racing against time. I almost felt sorry for the flustered waitress who was trying to apologise. I said almost. It was a good thing Sharon was handling the whole situation because I wasn't sure if I could have handled it as professionally as she did.

When we stepped out of the restaurant to start our five-minute walk to the stadium, it was beginning to rain again. Upon reaching the stadium under our rain jackets and umbrellas and with our containers of food in full view, we were told at the entrance that we could not take commercial food inside and had to either leave it in our vehicle or eat it before going in.

The former wasn't an option as our car was parked back at the restaurant. Besides, we were ravenous by now! So, we sat ourselves down on a dry spot next to the entrance and tried to wolf down our dinner, pretending that no one could see us while they were queueing up to go in. The bar fish or whatever it was, was a real disappointment. It was rubbery and had a strange taste. However, I didn't have time to mull over it as I was concentrating on trying to chew as fast as I could.

At one stage, Sharon came to check on us. I was aghast to realise that she and Fiona had been waiting for us at the entrance while we were having our dinner! I thought my husband had told them to go in first so they wouldn't miss the game.

Regretfully I closed the lid on the rest of my chips, binned it and hurried inside the stadium with the others. We went up the stairs and passed one block of seating after another in search of a row of five empty seats. Spotting lots of vacant seats at the second-to-last block, we settled down to watch the game that had already begun.

The game proved to be really exciting. Even though Central Pulse appeared to be the stronger team and was ahead by an average margin of five points, LG Mystics somehow managed to close the gap till extra time was called to decide the draw. It was a nail-biting neck and neck race between the two teams throughout the entire extra time of fourteen minutes. The crowd roared and cheered wildly when Mystics finally won by 69-68! A mere one point; its first win of the season!

It was an unbelievable victory for the Mystics! But the highlight of the evening for us had yet to come.

It was Sharon who spotted him first.

Standing in the vacant last block of seats next to ours together with a couple of people was Piri Weepu, one of the rugby players for the NZ All Blacks. Weepu agreed to a photograph when Sharon approached him and my daughter joined them for the unexpected and once-in-a-lifetime snapshot. Well, two, to be exact, but one of them didn't turn out well.

Despite the frustrating start with the dinner, it had turned out to be an exciting and incredible evening with my family and new friends.

An interesting and memorable break from doing anything related to pursuing my God-sized dreams while I watched others pursue theirs.

And a good reminder that when we make the best of a less-than-ideal situation, sometimes there's an unexpected bonus at the end!

Linking up with:

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Leaning In To Hear Him

I love my alone time with God. Time when I bask in His presence and let His love refresh and rejuvenate me as I discover the joy of yielding to Him. I especially love it when I receive some nuggets of insights that open my spiritual eyes and make my spirit soar. Like the time when He sat with me out on the deck and gave me His fresh manna.

As I've been trying to hear what God is speaking to my heart to write in my blog for this week, this well-known prayer known as The Serenity Prayer keeps coming back to me.

God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

This prayer has been so close to my heart for the past few years that I have practically adopted it as my own! 

Trying to change the things that either cannot be changed or are not meant for me to change only brings about frustration and discouragement. The ability to accept things for what they are is key to peace being restored to my soul.

As for things I can change, oh how I need the courage to do so!

But what makes it tricky is the ability to tell if something can be changed or not. Or whether it is the time to push for things to happen or to wait. This is where I need God's wisdom. And I need His grace to help me do what I cannot do in my own strength.

For a season of time, I've been taking comfort from the following scriptures and letting God fight my battles for me:

"But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord's victory...." ~ 2 Chronicles 20:17 (NLT) ~

"'Be strong and courageous! Don't be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!' Hezekiah's words greatly encouraged the people." 
~ 2 Chronicles 32:7,8 (NLT) ~

"When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!" ~ Nehemiah 4:20 (NLT) ~

Knowing that God fights for me takes a huge load off my shoulders. 

Recently though, God has brought me back to the story of Moses leading the people of Israel across the Red Sea not once, but a few times. When God speaks a few times, I really need to listen!

The story is picked up in Exodus 14 where the Israelites found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. There was the Red Sea before them and Pharaoh's army chasing them from behind. It was an impossible situation! Trying to prevent the people from panicking as they cried out to the Lord to save them, Moses told them not to be afraid but to stand still and see the salvation of God as He fought for them. However, God had one more thing for Moses to do before He miraculously saved them. He told Moses to pick up his staff and raise his hand over the sea so as to divide the water for the Israelites to cross over to the other side (verse 16).

I think God is reminding me that often times, there are things that I need to do before He can do His part. Like Moses had to stretch out his staff over the sea in order for it to part. Or that the people of Judah and Jerusalem won the battle not by fighting but by singing and praising God. Something that has to be done on our part to win the battle, but which may be different each time.

Last week while writing about the chihuahua of fear, a sense of warfare came over me and I felt liberated by addressing my fear in the way that Holley asked us to. It felt so good!

In order to know what to do and when to do it, I need to lean in to God to hear what He's saying. Because often times, He speaks through scriptures, circumstances, other people, or He whispers softly to my heart. When I don't take the time to listen, I miss it.

If I may, this then is my humble rendition of the Serenity Prayer:

God grant us the wisdom and serenity
to know what to do and when to do it;
to not rush ahead of You and trip over ourselves;
or to get stuck in our comfort zone or sense of helplessness.

Give us the ears to hear what You're saying,
and the courage to obey what we're hearing.
Give us the faith to believe You for more,
and the grace to wait when You say so!

Linking up with:

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Get Ready To Roar

I like what Holley says about fear: Fear is nothing to be afraid of - it's just the door we push through to get to the other side. And we never have to be ready - only willing.
In her recently released book, Holley writes:
“Fear hangs out right next to whatever it is you’re most called to do. That means the closer you get to your calling, the louder fear sounds. Keep going–fear is a chihuahua that sounds like a Doberman.” — You’re Made for a God-sized Dream, Chapter Five
This week, our assignment is to write a letter to the chihuahua of fear in our lives. When I think of a chihuahua, immediately I see a picture in my head of Reese Witherspoon in pink with her inseparable chihuahua in a colour-matching outfit, as seen in the movies, Legally Blonde and Legally Blonde 2!

A google search on chihuahuas led me to discover that they're the smallest breed of dogs and they bark at the slightest thing, be it out of fear or excitement.

Well, my chihuahua of fear has certainly been making a lot of noises despite its size. Fear has been a huge part of my entire life. I battle it constantly, particularly so as I recover from stress and burnout. No doubt, I have played a major role in lending it more power than it has, thus making it appear larger than it actually is. It reminds me of this cartoon drawing that I once saw of a little mouse speaking through a loudspeaker behind the curtains. He got caught out when the lights came on! Ha!

So, here goes my letter....

Hey you, chihuahua of fear,

I have some things I'd like to say to you. You've been making way too much noise and I've been intimidated for far too long. Now that I can see you clearly for what you are, I'm sending you packing.

You've been lurking in the shadows and around the corners, trying to trip me up at every opportunity. You've made me believe your lies and had me literally eating out of your hands at times. Now don't start sniggering. What? Now you're rolling on the floor in belly-aching and side-splitting laughter, pounding both fists on the floor with tears streaming down your face! Why, you no-good little ........

I'm glad I found the switch to put the lights on so I can see you for what you are. You're nothing but a liar working to steal all the dreams that God has for me, kill my hopes, and destroy me totally. I mean, look at you, you're just a little thing while my God is so big!

You know what? I'm going out to buy me some ear plugs so I won't have to listen to your lies anymore. And I'm going to renew my mind with the Word of God and meditate on what He says instead.

Every day I'm going to put on the armour of God as described in Ephesians 6: the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit.

I know you're going to come knocking on my door again, but I'm going to be extra vigilant to be sure I'm not letting you in. You've managed to sneak in too many times and even wormed your way to join me at my dining table. I've fed you so much that you actually need to lose some weight! In fact, I didn't even realise that I've let you sleep over so often that you've practically moved into my basement!

Now see here, this is the door, so go! SHOO! Take your other relatives with you! And don't come back! You're not welcome here! ROAR!!!


Your enemy,

My, doesn't it feel good to evict unwanted tenants! The key is not to let them in again!

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." 
~ John 10:10 ~

"Finally, brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." 
~ Ephesians 6:10,11 ~

Linking up with:

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Fresh Manna for The Day

I grab my Bible, notebook and pen and head outside. The sun is shining brilliantly in the cloudless blue sky.

I make my way down the steps that lead to our deck. There, I make myself comfortable in a spot where sunlight is peering through the rustling leaves of a tree.

Breathing in the lingering freshness of the morning air, I close my eyes, grateful for this time of quietness and solitude to tell God all that's in my heart and to hopefully hear Him speak to me.

As I feel the presence of God settling over me while the sun warms my face, a scripture verse about being still in His presence comes to mind.....in one of the psalms.

I flick open my Bible to the book of Psalms and thumb through to an underlined verse with the words Be still.

Psalm 46:10, that's it.

"Be still, and know that I am God...." (emphasis mine)

I am reminded of what a pastor's wife once shared with me regarding the Hebrew meaning of the word still in this same scripture. In addition to the meanings of 'to cease', 'to abate', 'to be slack', 'to weaken', etc., still also means 'cure', 'heal', 'repair', 'make whole'.

The revelation is that as we cease from our activities and strife before God, we are healed, cured and made whole! How awesome is that!

All this happens as we make our refuge in God and find our strength in Him.
(Psalm 46:1 "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.")

What about the Hebrew meaning of know?

I nip back into the house for my Strong's Concordance and lug it back to my spot on the deck. Well, not the exact spot, to be exact. I now have to move a little to be slightly in the shade as it is getting warmer.

Eagerly, I look up the meaning of know and as I suspected, it's the same Hebrew word 'yada' (pronounced 'yaw-dah'). This word is used in a variety of senses, with meanings ranging from being acquainted with to having an intimate knowledge of, as in a man knowing a woman.

Putting all these definitions together in my own words, Psalm 46:10 now reads -

As you cease from all activities, strife, fear, anxiety (and all other negative emotions) before Me, you will be healed and made whole (in your body, soul and spirit). Then you will know Me intimately, be assured of My love for you, and be filled with the revelation that I am truly God over your life and over all your circumstances!

This is so exciting! I love it when I receive nuggets of gold like this: revelations that help me find my refuge and rest in Him when challenges threaten to steal away my peace and joy.

Filled with fresh manna from the Lord, I pack up my stuff and head back into the house to do the next thing on my list for the day.

Linking up with:

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Joy of Yieldedness

I used to have this idea that God's love for me and acceptance of me had to be earned. That His favour and blessings were released on those who performed to His standard and expectations.

I was miserable, to say the least! No matter how hard I tried, I kept feeling that I had failed to achieve the standard that He required of me.

God wasn't the hard taskmaster I had made Him out to be. I was!

It took a paradigm shift and a complete burnout for me to realise that I no longer had to work for His love and approval. The burnout meant that I had neither the energy nor the motivation to do anything, much less perform for anyone.

Isn't it interesting how we often have to reach our lowest in order to tap into what's available all along? To finally stop our futile struggling and discover the ease and joy of yielding to the One who has been trying to impart to us this important truth?

I had to reach the end of myself to discover that I'm called a human BE-ing for a reason: the BE-ing precedes the DO-ing. I can't do until I first discover who I am in Him.

I am a child of the Most High God (Ps 82:6b) forgiven (Eph 4:32), loved (I John 3:1), and cherished (Eph 5:29). I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37); I will not be crushed or destroyed (2 Cor 4:8,9). His strength is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9). I can trust Him to work good out of whatever situation I find myself in (Rom 8:28) because He is for me (Rom 8:31). His thoughts of me are all good and filled with hope for the future (Jer 29:11). I can totally entrust myself to the One who has loved me with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3) and who will restore health to me and heal me of my wounds (Jer 31:17). The list goes on....

Out of the BE-ing flows the DO-ing.

From time to time, I still need to be reminded not to rush ahead of Him and get back into the performance-oriented rut that I used to be in.

As I sit at His feet, bask in His presence, and soak up His love for me, I can even be thankful for the burnout that has brought me to this place.

The place where I am discovering the gift of total surrender, complete abandon, and the joy of yieldedness.

The place where everything that I do flows from.....

...He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you in his love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” ~ Zephaniah 3:17 ~

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Wednesday, 13 March 2013

What I want more of in my life

I didn't know what it felt like to grieve over a major loss.

Not until three years ago...... when Joseph left home.

My heart had broken into a million pieces. The tears I'd shed might have filled God's bottle to the brim. I thought I'd never survive the terrible guilt and deep sorrow to ever be whole again.

Somehow I did survive, by the grace of God.

But the sorrow is still there. It comes and goes like the tide in its intensity. I don't think it will ever go away.

It still hurts to see him leave at the end of our weekly visit. To know that if given a choice, he would much rather stay with us. To know that no other caregiver can ever love and care for him as much as we do....

Especially this week when we need to help his foster parents resolve the problems that they're having with his support workers. There is the constant fear of people resigning for a better job elsewhere.

My heart aches to think of all that we need to do to constantly ensure our son's safety and well-being. And what would happen when we are no longer here to look out for him.

Without God, I won't be able to make it through.

He is the tower of strength I run to when I'm weak and weary....

He is the refuge I seek when I'm anxious and afraid....

His arms are the ones I turn to for comfort and love when my soul is downcast and my heart is sorrowful....

And this is what I want more of in my life.

To experience more of God so that despite all the challenges I face, I can still share with others the treasures that I'm discovering in Him.

"You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." ~ Psalm 56:8 ~

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortressl My God, in him I will trust." ~ Psalm 91:1,2 ~

Linking up with:

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A Letter to the God-sized Dreamers

Hey there, my God-sized dreaming buddies,

Please don't let the term God-Sized Dream intimidate you. Here's what it means, in Holley's words:

 "God-sized Dream = A desire in your heart for more of what God has for you."

So, a God-sized dream can be as big as uprooting yourself to become a missionary in a different land.

Or it can be whatever you do everyday, like going to work or staying home to raise your kids.

Whatever it is, there's a sense that God has something more for you.

Something that makes your heart beat a little faster.....that you feel passionate about......that makes you come alive......that brings you joy!

Even if you aren't clear at this stage what that dream is, it's there, waiting to be conceived, nurtured, encouraged, and to be birthed in due time.

We need each others' dreams. Because we aren't complete on our own.

Our dreams grow us to become who God intends us to be. Our spirits soar in unison with His Spirit as our dreams take shape, grow, sprout wings and eventually take flight.

I believe that each one of us, with our unique personalities and talents, reflect a facet of God's nature that no one else can replace. In pursuing our dreams, we allow the people around us to see and enjoy the beauty of that particular aspect of God that we would otherwise miss out on.

That's right, there is no one else who can be who you are and do what only you can do. The beauty of your uniqueness is meant to be shared with the people around you because it is such a blessing.

It feels scary, you say? I know, I'm scared, too. Scared silly, as Holley would say. (By the way, Holley's new book You're Made for a God-sized Dream: Opening the Door to All God Has for You has been released. Congratulations, Holley!)

This is why I've included some quotes about courage at the end of this letter for all of you and for me, too!

I kind of think that we owe it to ourselves (if not to God and the people around us) to discover the potential that God sees in our lives.

And I believe God's grace is there to meet our every need as we go after those dreams. Even when it gets tough at times.

Let's take courage from Him and from one another as we take the next step.

He believes in us.

And I believe in you.

Your friend,


Some quotes about courage:

Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of my fear. (Michael Hyatt)

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it. (Victor Hugo)

Courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all. For now you are travelling the road between who you think you are and who you can be. (Meg Cabot) 

"And David said to his son Solomon, 'Be strong and of good courage; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God - my God - will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.'"
 ~ I Chronicles 28:20 ~

"Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all of you who hope in the Lord." ~ Psalm 31:24 ~

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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A God-sized dream story

This week, Holley's "do what you can" step for our God-sized dream is to write about how we're inspired by a God-sized dream story of someone in Scripture, our family, our community or the great, big world out there online.

There are a few people who have inspired me that I will mention here. In particular, I'm going to write about one person whose online sermons I listened to again and again while I was going through the dark-night-of-my soul experience.

His name is Kris Vallotton and he's the senior associate leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California where Bill Johnson is the senior pastor. I have been deeply impacted by both men's ministries which seek to bring the experiences of heaven to earth and to operate in the supernatural like Jesus did.

Having prayed and pursued healing for my son's autism for years without seeing any change, I know how disheartening it can get. However, my husband and I have determined in our hearts that we are not going to get offended by what God hasn't done but instead to celebrate what He has done. Not just in our lives but in the lives of others, some of whom with testimonies that are way out of this world! We choose not to lower the standard of God's Word to our level of experience. Simply because by having our faith anchored in a God who heals, it gives us hope to carry on.

While in the pursuit of Joseph's healing especially when we came to the crossroad of having to consider residential care as an option a few years ago, I discovered a greater purpose: the pursuit of the Healer rather than the healing; of seeking the face of God (to discover who He is) rather than the hand of God (what He can do). 

But in the midst of the stress and anxiety of planning to let Joseph go into full-time care, I lost sight of this purpose for a while and had to learn the hard way that there are certain things that can only be received through rest rather than strife. In fact, the more I walk with God, the more I am learning that it's all about resting in Him and letting Him do things through us. During this time, part of the thing that kept me going was listening to Kris' messages like "Living Powerfully", "Living in Wholeness", and "Spirit War"; just to name a few.

Kris speaks from his personal experience of a nervous breakdown which lasted three and a half years during the early years of his marriage. His struggles with anxiety and how he overcomes them resonate deeply with me. His teachings on how the devil gains access into our lives to create havoc through our thoughts that become strongholds in our minds are so powerful. I used to listen over and over again to how he exhorts his audience to be kind to yourself, to nourish and cherish yourself as Christ does the church, to not lie down but keep walking when going through the valley of the shadow of death, because this, too shall pass. These exhortations based on the word of God were like water to a parched land; hope to a despairing soul.

Today, Kris' prophetic insight as well as humorous delivery has made him a much sought-after international conference speaker. His personal testimony of deliverance from fear and torment brings hope and freedom to thousands of people. He has written several books, including the best-selling "Supernatural Ways of Royalty".

To me, it is so refreshing to hear someone share his struggles with great transparency, and at the same time with such insights and revelations that I feel empowered to believe that I, too, can be an overcomer. I loved it when Kris said in some of his sermons that he was speaking to himself as much as he was speaking to his audience. That out of one's test comes the test-imony; out of one's mess comes forth the mess-age.

Out of the mess that I found myself in came the discovery of how much God loves me, yes, even when I was at rock bottom and totally unlovable! It is with this message in mind that I am writing a book based on my journey which I hope to be able to publish in the not-so-distant future.

This discovery was a huge revelation for someone like me who has struggled with self-acceptance most of her life. That is why I find Holley so encouraging with her constant words of exhortation that we are already amazing just the way we are! By the way, Holley is the best-selling author of "You're Already Amazing" and her second book "You're Made for a God-Sized Dream" officially releases next week.

So, thank you, Kris, and Bill, and Holley, for your messages of hope and courage that have helped me move forward and enabled me to start dreaming again!

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