Grace

Grace

The church I attend has just finished running the Grace Course. I have been unable to attend any of the weekly sessions due to work commitments. I did however make it to the testimony celebration earlier this week.

It was humbling to listen to people share their demons and insecurities. It was also interesting to hear how common the enemy toolbox is. Shame. Isolation. Anger. Self-loathing. Guilt. Depression. Resentment. And on and on it goes.

It was also amusing to listen to how people initially approached the course. Their reasoning and expectations were just that, theirs, and by their own admission the Holy Spirit showed up and His intention and reasoning was revealed. His plan, the bigger picture, it might not make sense what has happened or is happening now but it will. Trust in Him, have faith.

We have all heard Amazing Grace‘ but what is grace? Simply put (I think): Divine Help. I believe that His grace is a blessing and as stated by some fellow believers “…grace makes the impossible, possible”. This help saves, it heals, it forgives, it comforts, it strengthens, it guides, it does whatever you need it to do. That is pretty powerful stuff!

These attitudes of gratitude are empowering. I could not help feeling joy for the people who shared their testimonies. It got me thinking and typing. Shifting your focus from the lies of the enemy to the love surrounding you is when you need His grace. Without it, the darkness is consuming. Asking for help is difficult, I know. I find it difficult to talk to people, I guess that is why I am on here!

I KNOW that there are people ready to listen, to offer advice/support, to pray for me, with me and still I push them away. Retreating inwards into isolation when I battle my own demons and insecurities. Do you feel that way too?

I’m positive you have people in your life too who are ready willing and able to help you too. Think really hard if you just disagreed with me! Thing is if you are anything like me, you will have built a sky-high fortress around you with no visible exits. So how do we, you and I, ask for help?

How do we free ourselves from this mighty stronghold? It is impossible! Right? Wrong! This is where grace comes in. God is available 24/7, everywhere and anywhere. Talk to Him. How He answers our prayers is infinitely different. It could be a friend reaching out, you reaching out, a sermon, maybe a testimony, a blog post or it might even be Him talking to you directly! Ask and listen – Just don’t miss it.

Each testimony closed with the following declaration over them: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.”

I declare Psalms 136 v 1 over your life and mine. I welcome your grace stories and thoughts. Let’s live the impossible through His amazing grace and give thanks! I am off to have a natter …

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True Mirror

True Mirror

Just finished watching the TEDx Talk: The art of being yourself, by Caroline McHugh.  I am still thinking about her question: If you could be the woman of your dreams, who would you be?  I know it is not the woman I am as I type this!

Identity has been a theme in church recently and I have been reflecting on my own a great deal of late. Proverbs 27:19 is like the true-mirror in the talk.  From walking into church as a self proclaimed athiest to being baptised my identity has indeed evolved. Or has it!? I think not, keep reading.

The need for inward reflection I think is necessary, and it wasn’t until I was asked a question of belonging did I really focus on my identity.  I sought answers on the meaning of belonging, what it meant to other people, how they defined it.  This went on for weeks and the whole time I kept reflecting about where I have been and where I want to go… the woman of my dreams if you will.

It was pointed out to me that I have a history of not committing. Funny thing is, that since my baptism I thought I was. Committing to growing within my faith. Serving where I could, daily readings, surrounding myself with supportive people, even asking for a mentor.  Now I should point out I declined to belong, and that was okay. with the people who asked me. My inability to commit rearing its oldself again? Perhaps. I chose to think it is a perspective difference.

The thing is though, that since then, I have withdrawn. Evidently, it was not okay with me. And, as anyone who knows me can testify to, withdrawl is incredibly noticable.  I’m very accomplished at being an ex-friend. The numbers don’t lie. I have a self perpetuating condition, and the wake of people I used to know is nothing short of tragic. The worst part is the more care and attention given the further away I pull.

A leopard never changes its spots. We have all heard it before. I am the big cat that hurts people and pushes them away. I mean I can’t even maintain family relationships. Now geographically it is challenging, and resentment sets in every now and again. If they can’t be bothered, why should I? Why do I always have to stay awake for time zone differences?  Unless I contact them we have no contact. And so it goes.

Everyone is busy, I know this. I decided I wanted my family in my life so if I have to do the chasing then so be it. I would make time because I deem them important. My life would be richer for it.  I still sometimes wonder though, with time spent for all to see on social media, gaming, television and other people, do I really mean so little to them? Then the resentment sets in all over again. Sometimes a “like” just isn’t enough. Then I remember, I want them in my life despite the distance.

My friendships have long been compartmentalised. Mostly because of the perpetuating self-fulfilling prophecy of betrayal, abandonment, judgment and fear. Basically: ‘hurt or leave before they do’. Hence the ex-friends. The only lasting friendships have been maintained because I am not a constant in them. Again, how tragic! I value these friendships more than any riches, and of late I am trying, really trying to be inclusive and involved.  I am just terrified the leopard will ruin it all.

So, now that I have said it all out loud, I think my relationship with my ego is pretty clear. Thing is, this week I have pushed people away, people who care , people who are more family than my own blood. I am highly ashamed of my behaviour, but it is not the first time I have lashed out at these same people. Twice bitten, twice shy or even unforgiveable (understandably).  Sorry is not enough in my eyes. I can’t even promise I won’t do it again. I know that who I am right now is not who I want to be, it’s more nightmare than dream.

A wise lady told me that is exactly why I need Jesus. And I agree with her; relationships are a chink in my armour to be exploited by the enemy. I am born anew in Christ, so I can change! I am sorry for pushing and hurting, I truly am.  I always am. In the past my apology has not been accepted or even heard, and this time may be the same – a consequence I accept.  So, Im going to apologise and continue my walk, and just maybe the woman of my dreams will become a reality and I will be more like Him.

If you struggle like I do, therapy will help but only God can heal. Will you let Him ?

As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart.

Shut up and swim!

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Had a chat with a new friend this week who gave me the title for this post! It is a Greek saying. It made me smile, it rings loud and clear at this moment in time.

Just like my initial journey during the Dream Chase; I am at a place where quitting seems like the best option for the team and me. I have a habitude for conflict and discord. I am intolerant of people’s behaviour. I abhor conflict, so would rather remove myself from it. Dealing with it head on is my preference, but I keep thinking that would solve nothing. So here I am ranting on WordPress.

Now these are all my flaws!! They are all about my perception of the evolving situation. Perceptions change,  and it needs time to. I CHOSE to chase the dream and to be here in Greece; yet, again I find my internal conflict reoccurring quit or ‘shut up and swim’.

The last time I was in these shoes, I chose to ‘shut-up’ and it worked out despite the hurdles. Last time, the conflict went away. The relief was immense. I didn’t have to decide. This time there is more at stake. My livelihood for one. My fledgling career I. Yachting, my career development, my sanity and the list goes on.

But the stupid thing is :- I am not a quitter. I am no martyr either. If anything it makes me more determined. Why?  Because I remember that I give people the power to  make me feel inferior (Eleanor Roosevelt said that). And that is just idiotic on my part. Did I mention I am intolerant of them too?

I pray most days for patience and tolerance. So naturally I am faced with the situation to practice these qualities. That rocking sense of humor from above. I am missing home and my fellowship time. I have digital connections to home, it just isn’t the same.

It’s easy to be at home and be a good Christian. It’s not so easy here, alone. 3000 miles is a long, long way. My faith is not in crisis,  but my dream is. The invictus games reminded me “teamwork makes the dream work”.

One of my colleagues described my faith as a weakness. I disagree, and can see how I would indeed have less conflict in my life without it but I remember why I can back to God and I feel peace again, therefore still strongly disagree with them. The problem is not my religious belief it is the values and standards I hold dear and expect in others.

Yes I will have bad days and type out my resignation. Yes I will have great days filled with laughter and enjoyment. In 6 months time, I will wonder at the end of my Greecian Summer why I wanted to go home at all! I know I can’t control the behaviour of others but I can control my own.

I need to learn how to stop wearing my heart on my sleeve. Vulnerability is a good thing,  however too much makes me moody and unapproachable.  I ostracise myself from the good people and things in my life.

I chose to be a member of this team, I chose to be more tolerant and patient. I chose to try daily to try to be what a Christian should be. I chose to live by the standards and values I learned to live by but importantly to be less judgemental! And I make no apologies for the person I am but I do apologise for shutting down, and for being a ‘mare’ when I can’t be all the things I chose to be.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5&6

To be honest…

TBH, a prefix so commonly used it even has its own acronym. I have used it and heard it more over the last few years, and it made me think ‘why do we use it’? Do our conversations with one another have a built in level of deciept or distrust or censorship requiring us to clarify when we are telling the truth? Is the truth not a given?

To be honest, brutally honest, is a concept reserved for a utopian existence. I think perhaps we are emphasizing our openness, or expressing our passion on a given topic, whilst at the same time conveying a lack of confidence in the interaction taking place due to self-censorship. I feel to be honest is now associated with negativity and criticism. It alienates and offends. When being honest you are perceived as confrontational. It is far removed from the virtue it is intended to be.

In a world dominated by social media, we rarely want to see or hear the truth. It makes us uncomfortable and irritated. To express your thoughts and feelings is socially unacceptable. Not mention the repercussions it comes with! We have all heard the expression “the truth hurts”…

It can hurt your friendships, working relationships and have lasting ramifications. This blog has been stagnant for a long while because I have imposed a publication ban on myself. The Dream Chase has been successful, I am currently in Greece living the dream. I have however published nothing on the journey that got me here because I genuinely thought that it would offend someone!  the modern world talks about free speech.  Having talked with other people, it appears not to be a mirage.  Writing about your life and experiences will offend someone, a fact! 

Since I have been out here though I have realised I’m not the only person who feels the need to self censor. When you decide to blog, it is about your opinions and thoughts, and feelings. You take into account the repercussions of family, friends, colleagues, employers and the judgement of strangers and self sensor! Is there a tactful way to write about the less favorable elements of your life without incriminating any of the above? Do you need permission to talk about your life as you see it? Are the perceived fears relevant it you commit and publish for the world to see?

So many questions. I don’t have the answers but welcome your thoughts if you are reading this. Writing this has made me wonder if the ‘white lies’ we use to nuture our relationships with are acceptable? Why? Because – the bible commands that we do not lie, to be honest, a lie is a lie; right? Also, is self-censorship unhealthy? Life goes on irrespective of the truth. I personally, prefer the direct approach, however, it has no always worked out. Hence the censorship. Life is more agreeable without the honest truth.

I find this moral conundrum interesting and note that it is not confined to Christianity. Really the lack of the whole truth is based on interpretation and perception as well as influence. We tell white-lies to prevent hurting the feelings of the people we care about. We tell them so we do not damage further the person, situation or outcome. The boundaries are shifting constantly. I don’t think life gets to be black and white. Hence the existence of white-lies.

I’m not sure I will see the ‘honesty utopia’ in my lifetime, but if we cultivated an honesty culture (like we have with quality, health & safety) we could actually be honest with each other. Practice honesty with respect and tact to cultivate authentic relationships that value your words when you speak.

I leave you with my favourite quote from an unkown author:

It s funny how everybody considers honesty a virtue, yet no one want to hear the truth”

Reflections

The last 12 months have been a roller-coaster mentally,  physically and emotionally. I suspect though, that every year is when we pause to reflect. So much has happened and it’s the unexpected curve balls that have brought about moments of sheer joy and laughter, tears of happiness and new friends.

According to the plan I should be back home, preparing to head to the Mediterranean. However, I am still at sailing school on the Isle of Wight waiting to sit my exam. Pass or fail I just want it over now. A freak fracture has held me back but longer than my crew and colleagues who all passed their yachtmaster offshore exam. Congratulations guys!

I have my exam scheduled for mid March, so fingers crossed and toes and anything else that will cross really! I am as ready as I am going to be though. Update you all soon!

“The best laid plans… “

Into my wilderness

The last 2 weeks have been a roller-coaster ride. For the record one is not a fan. The elation after my baptism was inexplicable. But, to try and explain it felt like I moved into sunshine, I basked in the light and felt it’s warmth.

Almost immediately I was in my own wilderness I looked around and felt lost, despair, anger, hurt and sadness. The sunny disposition had evaporated as quickly as it had appeared.

Why? Well because with a week to go before I headed off on my new path a lump appeared in my leg and surgery was necessary. I could barely walk, I could not envision lifting let alone changing sails. Please read my previous post for more detail.

My test had begun. And, the kind words of support were invaluable to get me through as was the word.

I knew I could take pain killers and “power through” but I also knew that was irresponsible. In my new career I will be expected to make the right decisions and look after people and their welfare. With that in mind I couldn’t risk disrupting the training with my soon to be colleagues because I wanted this experience so much.

The training program is intensive and being on the water means it’s not just a 999 call if I went down. That in mind, I contacted the powers that be and did the only thing I could – beg for more recovery time. I knew this could end the dream but there was a possibility it might just delay the dream.

During the past year reading the Bible in a Facebook group and chatting to a special lady in my church I was reminded of Jesus’ baptism. Matthew Ch4.

This was definitely a testing time for me, but I had an army of people praying for me and it worked! Prayers were answered for healing & recovery, compassion and continuation.

If you needed tangible proof:
1. The nurses have never seen a post-op wound like mine heal as quickly as it has been.
2. Whilst waiting to find out if this new journey would start the right people were available and, thankfully, they said yes to starting a week late and to working around a full recovery.
3. Travel was cancelled with full refunds, despite the late hour. A blessing on my finances as I am no longer in employment.

I don’t know what lesson I had to learn from this experience nor if I ever will.

I do know this though:

1. I know that my faith was tested, and trusting in it and Him was far from easy. But it helped holding onto it.
2. I know that prayer was answered, and I thank everyone for their prayers.
3. I know I’m never alone – friends and family messages and calls lifted my spirit also Ps 73:23
4. I made no bargains to get the outcome I wanted during prayer, but I did ask for what I wanted. Accepting the answer may well be “no” – and only then did I feel the warmth again.

Thanks for reading feel free to comment, share or like. If you are interested in following my journey then please subscribe.

James 1:2-3. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.